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City lowers fleet expenses by using re-refined motor oil and antifreeze in all vehicles.
To read the original article that appeard in the May 2006 issue, click here.

WHO: Spokane (Wash.) Department of Solid Waste Management
PROGRAM: Household hazardous waste
RESIDENTS SERVED: 425,000
PERMANENT STAFF: 187
BUDGET: $175,000

THE LATEST: At less than $7/capita, the Spokane (Wash.) Department of Solid Waste Management's house-hold hazardous waste (HHW) collection and disposal program is one of the lowest-priced in the nation — a successful blend of diversion, reuse, and public education.

In 1991 the department added household hazardous waste to its list of accepted materials. Now its 20-year-old waste-to-energy facility and two transfer stations house collection locations that are open 7 days a week. The program is largely subsidized through tipping fees of $98/ton from the waste-to-energy facility.

For Disposal Superintendent Geoff Glenn, though, recycling is the program's most important component. Last year, the department extracted additional utility from 516 tons of 629 tons of hazardous waste compared to 418 tons in 2006 — a 23% increase. It reuses or sells everything from recovered refrigerants and lead acid batteries to oil and antifreeze. Residents can even swap paint, cleaners, and fertilizers at “grab tables” at the transfer stations 12 miles north and 10 miles east of Spokane.

The concept of reusing materials, including hazardous waste, began 20 years ago when the department started to collect used motor oil and batteries that it sold to refineries for processing. “Over the last couple of years we tried to find alternative marketplaces for those materials,” Glenn says. “We'd been doing it with refrigerant for 10 years, so we used that as a model.” Now contractors pick up the oil and batteries from the city and ship directly to the processors for recycling.

So far it's worked: Although not immune to market-driven price fluctuations, the commodities generate $12,000 to $20,000 annually.

Using its two transfer stations as a base, the department collected from local motorists 71,319 gallons of oil in 2010 and 5,963 gallons of antifreeze, which is re-refined by a local vendor for 50 cents/gallon and returned to the department for use in its fleet of 90 vehicles for $4.35/gallon. All are now running on re-refined antifreeze and re-refined motor oil. The antifreeze performs just as well as new antifreeze, Glenn adds.

Fleet services also uses the re-refined commodities on all city vehicles, even the police department's BMW motorcycles. Glenn's team saves on labor costs by using inmates from a local correctional facility work program to refill 55-gallon antifreeze containers.

Re-refining has helped reduce the total amount of disposed waste to 113 tons in 2010 from 157 in 2006.

If the department can't divert or reuse hazardous material, it's sold.

In addition to PSC Environmental, manufacturer Interstate Batteries buys automotive and sealed lead acid (SLA) batteries by the pound and Oil Re-Refining Co. Inc. buys oil and antifreeze based on a percentage of the heating oil stock exchange. All contracts are three years with optional one-year extensions not to exceed a total of five years.