Aftermarket & the Environment Supplement

Maaco president urges industry to act quickly to reduce VOCs

By: Jennifer Holloway

Despite a January 2009 implementation date for lowering volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions, Maaco Systems Canada, Inc. is introducing new water-borne technology to all of its franchises now and company president Gary Dohring is urging others in the automotive industry to follow suit.

"We're very aware of the impact that paints, solvents and other chemicals used in the painting process can have on the environment," says Dohring. "That's why we're not waiting another two years to do what must be done. We're doing it today. We're changing our practices now to reduce air pollution and help protect and preserve the environment for generations to come."

According to Environment Canada, more than five kilotonnes of VOCs are emitted each year from coatings and surface cleaners used in automotive refinishing operations in Canada.

In April 2007, Maaco franchisees and employees met in Milton, Ontario, the company's headquarters, to hold a national meeting. There, franchisees and employees were introduced to the changes to the legislation and the new, water-borne technology. "We unanimously agreed to take action now," says Dohring. Every system at every franchise has been assessed, he adds. The main concern to make the change is air quality and air flow, as water-borne paints need greater air flow to properly dry.

About a dozen of Maaco's franchises have since converted their respective facilities to low-VOC paints, modifying their procedures and undergoing comprehensive training to ensure proper handling of the new materials. The others, about 24, are in the process of converting. (Maaco has also committed to lowering VOCs in its processes by 64%, rather than the 40% mandated by the upcoming legislation.)

Dohring says automotive companies need to act now to convert their facilities, but not only for environmental reasons. Part of the challenge of converting, says Dohring, is getting the new equipment and supplies, many of which are on back order. When the time comes for the majority of companies to make the switch, "it's going to be a nightmare," Dohring says. "Thousands of body shops will not be able to make the conversion, and it won't be for a lack of trying."

Maaco estimates that its decision to convert the franchises early will prevent about 65 tonnes of harmful emissions from entering the environment. "Maaco believes that industry has a responsibility to reduce its impact on the environment today rather than tomorrow," adds Dohring. "Reducing emissions requires a collaborative effort and I challenge my industry counterparts to do their part to reduce air pollution as soon as possible."

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