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Radiator Repair Chain Takes Pollution Prevention Seriously

Radiator repair work — with antifreeze, lead-based solder and other hazardous materials — seems anything but environmentally friendly. But Mac’s Radiator, a Portland, Ore.-based chain of repair shops with a Eugene outlet, is part of an industry effort to change that perception. The Mac’s shop in west Eugene is the first business in the city to be certified under the Eco-Logical Business Program, a government-run pollution prevention project for small businesses.

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From The Register-Guard, Eugene, Ore.

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PORTLAND, OR — Radiator repair work — with antifreeze, lead-based solder and other hazardous materials — seems anything but environmentally friendly.

But Mac’s Radiator, a Portland, Ore.-based chain of repair shops with a Eugene outlet, is part of an industry effort to change that perception.

The Mac’s shop in west Eugene is the first business in the city to be certified under the Eco-Logical Business Program, a government-run pollution prevention project for small businesses.

A group of public agencies, including the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, launched the program in Portland four years ago. The Northwest Automotive Trades Association has promoted certification among its members. Now, the program is being expanded statewide.

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Mac’s is at the forefront because the family-owned business first sought certification for its Portland shops, then wanted to take the new policies companywide. All nine of Mac’s Radiator shops in Oregon are certified, said president and co-owner Stephen MacDonald.

To gain certification, companies must surpass state and federal legal requirements. Companies must show that they’ve adopted the best practices in their industry for handling solvents, oils and other toxic substances. At Mac’s, that meant analyzing all of its processes, scrapping a solvent-based method for cleaning parts, reducing use of other chemicals and recycling as many materials as possible, MacDonald said.

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Once certified, companies may display the Eco-Logical Business Program seal.

Thirty-three auto service and repair shops in Oregon are certified, said DEQ spokeswoman Marcia Danab.

More companies are expected to join as the program goes statewide.

“It’s been slow in the number of shops that have gotten on board,” said Deb Elkins, executive director of the Northwest Automotive Trades Association.

“But I’m confident the numbers will increase now that it’s gone statewide.”

She said Wayne’s Garage and Small World Auto Center in Eugene have inquired about certification.

Certification “really makes you look at your processes … and see — whether it’s good for the environment or not — is it a good business practice,” MacDonald said.

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Here are some examples of Mac’s environmentally friendly practices: It filters and reuses all the water used to flush and test radiators. Water flowing through radiators picks up lead from solder, and it can’t be discharged into the sewer system, McDonald said.

Mac’s cleared out a jumble of partially used cans of chemicals in its shops and established a list of company-approved chemicals. Now, if employees want to order something not on the list, they have to get authorization from the corporate office, McDonald said.

Some of the Mac’s stores used to have a solvent tank for cleaning parts.

It’s replaced those with nonhazardous cleaning methods, such as steam cleaning, he said.

All this was expensive, McDonald said. “But over the long-run there’s a cost savings,” he said.

Plus, as the program becomes better known, consumers may be drawn to shops that are certified, he said.

“We’re involved in an industry that has been known as a dirty industry that’s been slow to respond to environmental issues,” MacDonald said. “This program can help change the public’s view of what a radiator repair shop is.”

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The Eco-Logical Business Program, considering possible expansion, recently introduced certification for landscaping firms in the Portland area.

Copyright 2004 The Register-Guard, Eugene, Ore. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News.

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