Green Business: Auto Repair Tips and Ideas for Pollution Prevention

  • Assess your office to identify ways to prevent pollution. Review the plan annually for new measures to implement.
  • Check Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) and labels for all cleaning products, building maintenance materials, pesticides, and fertilizers you use. Identify safer alternatives.
  • Evaluate each area of your business to identify actual and potential sources of pollution, and ways to prevent it.
  • Call the Snohomish County Household Hazardous Waste Drop-off Station at 425-388-6050 for disposal of hazardous substances not in use.

Prevent pollution in the following ways:

  • Establish a system for keeping the entire facility clean and orderly.
  • Routinely inspect and address all potential sources of leaks, spills, and emissions (material/waste storage areas, pipes, valves and hoses; process equipment, etc.).
  • Have no open floor drains in the shop floor. (A requirement in many areas.)
  • Seal shop floor with an impermeable coating such as epoxy.
  • Regularly inspect and clean out separators (at least every six months).
  • Clean private catch basins once a year and as needed.
  • Design berms or grading to prevent run-off or rain water from flowing across industrial areas where it could be contaminated.
  • Regularly check and clear storm drain openings and basins of litter, debris and soil.
  • Stencil all storm water drains with "No Dumping, Drains to Stream." Stencils are available from City of Edmonds Public Works.
  • Clean larger oil spills with a hydrophobic mop, Pig, pad or squeegee/dust pan for spills containing oil. Wring out into a dedicated mop bucket labeled as "Waste Oil." Hydrophobic mops will not pick up antifreeze
  • Use a regular mop for spills containing antifreeze. Wring out into a dedicated mop bucket labeled as "Waste Antifreeze."
  • Do not reuse regular mop water over and over (use once).
  • Use a shop towel to clean up any residuals on the floor
  • Floors may be wet mopped only after using the above methods. Dispose of mop water to the sanitary sewer as long as it meets local discharge limits (pH is not too high).

Prevent and Control Spills

  • Use "dry" cleanup methods inside the shop and at fuel-dispensing islands.
  • Place clean-up supplies (absorbent pads, mops, buckets, etc.) in convenient areas.
  • Use drip pans, indoors and outdoors, to control fluid leakage.
  • Store parts washers near work areas to avoid spills.
  • No water from cleaning floors, parts or cars is discharged to the sanitary sewer or storm drain systems. Either:
    • Do not wet mop the floors, or
    • Put mop water in a drum for hauling by a licensed waste hauler.
  • Clean parking lots by sweeping or using equipment that collects dirty water (which must be disposed of to sanitary sewer).
  • To prevent spills around drums & tanks, use:
    • Spout and funnel when adding fluids to waste drums, and
    • Pump and spigot when dispensing new product. Drain residual from pump back into original container.
  • Use fully enclosed waste transfer system for waste liquids.
  • Post a sign (at least 8½" x 5½") above a shop sink area notifying employees: "Do Not Discharge Hazardous Wastes or Chemicals Down Drains or Outside Storm Drains"
  • Install your own closed loop vehicle washing system.


  • Require vendors to take back unused samples or off-spec materials.
  • Work with vendors to return excess or expired stock
  • Minimize the inventory of fluids and chemicals-stock only what you need and order materials on a "just-in-time" basis. In general, keep no more than a 3 month supply of hazardous materials on stock.
  • Store hazardous materials securely, controlling access to stock, and rotating so as to use oldest material first.
  • Locate the storage of all hazardous materials and waste away from storm & sanitary sewer drains.
  • Store deliveries and supplies under a roof.
  • Inspect inventory, storage and/or shipping areas for potential accidents.


  • Train your employees on ways to prevent pollution (using this checklist!).

Radiator-specific Practices

  • When removing hot tank solids, reuse the liquid and reconstitute the solution for process tanks.
  • Solder over a drip pan (not test tank) and recycle drips.
  • Use only zinc-free flux and lead-free solder.

Reduce chemical use in the following ways:

  • Eliminate the use of powdered or granular absorbent for routine cleanup.
  • Eliminate the use of cleaners and lubricants containing n-hexane (e.g. aerosol brake cleaners and degreasers).
  • Use a water-based brake washing method.
  • Do not contaminate cleaning solution by washing parts sprayed with chlorinated cleaners or petroleum distillates.
  • Use no- or low-copper brake pads whenever possible.
  • Use longer-lasting synthetic oils.
  • Purchase re-refined oil and antifreeze for use in your shop.
  • Use a detergent-based rather than caustic-based solution in a hot tank.
  • Buy low-VOC or recycled paint and other products.

Reuse or recycle hazardous substances in the following ways:

  • Use an industrial laundry service for shop rags and uniforms (Keep rags in a covered container and do not saturate).
  • Use a rag/uniform service that recycles its wastewater.
  • Recycle empty hazardous materials containers (including drums). Either: Return to supplier for refill; Recondition onsite (permit requirements may apply), or contract with drum reconditioner.
  • Recycle spent toner and ink-jet cartridges.
  • Recycle and reuse antifreeze onsite if you have/use large volumes.
  • Crush used oil filters to recover as much oil as possible for recycling.
  • Filter and reuse parts cleaning liquid onsite.
  • Recycle and reuse all properly recovered refrigerant from air conditioning systems.

Reduce vehicle emissions in the following ways:

  • When possible, arrange for a single vendor who makes deliveries for several items.
  • Patronize services close to your business (e.g., food/catering, copy center, etc.) and encourage employees to do the same.
  • Carefully plan delivery routes to eliminate unnecessary trips.
  • Keep company vehicles well maintained to prevent leaks and minimize emissions; encourage customers to do the same.

Commute Alternatives

  • Make transit schedules, commuter ride sign-ups, etc .available to staff.
  • Offer telecommuting opportunities and/or flexible schedules so workers can avoid heavy traffic commutes.
  • Hire locally.

Commute Alternatives for Larger Employers

  • Offer lockers and showers for staff who walk, jog or bicycled to work.
  • Offer secure bicycle storage for staff and customers.
  • Offer employee incentives for carpooling or using mass transit (e.g. guaranteed ride home or subsidized transit passes).
    • Set aside car/van pool parking spaces.
    • Provide commuter van.
    • Encourage bicycling to work by offering rebates on bicycles bought for commuting.
    • Offer a shuttle service to and from bus stops or ferry terminal.

Other Greenhouse Gas Emissions

  • Complete a CO2 or eco-footprint calculator to determine your own greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Convert company vehicles to low emission vehicles (electric, hybrid, natural gas or alternative fuels).
  • Offer electric vehicle recharge ports for visitors and staff using electric vehicles.
  • Use biodiesel (100% or blends) or vegetable diesel in place of petro diesel in vehicles.
  • Install renewable energy sources, such as solar panels or wind generators.

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