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How Bad Are Workshops for The Environment?

It’s not hard to imagine the damage cars can have on the environment, from the greenhouse gas emissions to the constant demand for fossil fuels. But many owners will never think about one of the most harmful aspects of owning a car as it is something they will never deal with, servicing and repairs.

As modern mechanics, there are many responsibilities we have to help save the environment, from safely disposing of oil to ensuring cars are running cleanly to prevent pollution. Many of these products are not just damaging to the environment, but also to mechanics. Causing cancer, skin issues and respiratory diseases and more.

Our first and most obvious point is used engine oil, a common factor for just about all cars on the road today. While most cars may only take between 4L-8L of oil to fill, many manufacturers recommend changing the oil between the 10,000km-15,000km mark. Because of this, many cars will actually use between 80L-180L over a 10 year period.

Used engine oil is incredibly bad for the environment, with as little as 4L of used oil able to make millions of litres of water undrinkable. Additionally, just a small amount of used oil is able to damage soil to a point where it is not able to grow anything again.

Another key aspect of the automotive industry’s impact on the environment is actually the most commonly talked about issue with cars, greenhouse gas pollution. Mechanics are often tasked with ensuring that cars are running to their optimum capability. But, as many customers become frustrated with the modern emissions control systems on cars, it is becoming increasingly common for workshops to remove or alter these systems, making them ineffective.

One of the more high-profile cases of this involved the Diesel Brothers, a pair of mechanics with their own TV show out of Utah. The Diesel Brothers were charged with removing DPF’s (diesel particulate filters) from their customers trucks which caused them to pollute as much as 36x more than standard trucks. Ultimately the shop was fined over US$850,000 for their actions but there are many workshops around the world doing the same at customers’ requests.

On top of this, the need to replace brake pads, clutches and more means a continuous stream of manufacturing needed to support mechanics and their workshops, with many of these parts containing precious metals, dangerous fibrous materials and more.

So, what is the automotive industry doing to combat some of these issues?

Well in the case of motor oil, most workshops collect waste and return it to recyclers that are able to process the oil to its base components to be reused. On top of this, brick and mortar workshops are required to have systems that trap oil before it is sent into the environment and separate it from water for recycling.

When replacing parts which have dangerous materials in them, such as fibrous particles, many workshops wash the dust down with water and use a separating system to remove pollutants before they enter the environment. It is also fairly common for workshops to use second-hand parts when a new part is not available, which is a good way to recycle and cause less waste as well.

While there is still a long way to go, many mechanics are making positive steps towards reducing their impact, though it will be quite a while before we can make the changes the world really needs.


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