Ford Motor Co. has recycled plenty of paint solvent waste during the past two decades.
Thirty-eight million gallons, actually.
The automaker said it has reclaimed all of that waste solvent material since starting a recovery program 20 years ago at a single plant.
Each of Fords 19 assembly plants in the United States and Canada now use a closed-loop recycling program to recover used paint solvent along with sludge thats used as fuel.
Since 1990, Fords use of reclaimed paint solvent instead of virgin solvent has resulted in a savings of nearly $75 million, said Andy Acho, worldwide director of environmental outreach and strategy at Ford.
Gage Products Co. collects Fords used solvents and paints in tanker trucks that ship the material to Gage processing facilities in Ferndale.
Solid waste is removed and used as fuel in cement kilns. Liquids are distilled and refined for use back at Fords assembly plants. Gage has recovered more than 10.4 million gallons of sludge through the program so far.
This year, Gage will reclaim more than 2.1 million gallons of paint-system waste material from our North American plants, Acho said. In the past 15 years, the program has eliminated nearly 225 million pounds of hazardous landfill material and 450 million pounds of carbon dioxide emissions that would have resulted if Fords paint-system waste had been incinerated.
Gage has remanufactured more than 25 million gallons of spent Ford solvent that has been reused by the company.
Jay Richardson was an engineering supervisor at Fords Wixom, Mich., assembly plant in the 1980s and is considered the programs founder. Up until the late 1980s, the industry had simply purged paint solvents into paint-system spray booths, where it ended up evaporating or being sent to industrial-waste treatment facilities, he said.
Gage initially spent $1 million to start the solvent recovery program at Ford in 1988 after a series of pilot programs started in 1984.
The firm has spent another $4 million over the years on the closed-loop recycling system.
Gage recycled more than 4 million gallons of paint-system waste from Ford and other manufacturers last year, according to Donald Dixon, president of that company.
Some 30 automotive plants in North America now use Gages system, according to that company.
Jim Johnson writes for Waste News, a sister publication to Automotive News.