Oxford Panels

Waste Reduction and Chemical Minimisation: Oxford Panels


Courtesy of Oxford Panels

A program involving recycling, waste reduction and waste treatment, is saving Oxford Panels around $1,000 annually on waste removal cost alone. A 30% saving on the cost of raw materials such as thinners and sandpaper, has also been recorded.
Importantly, staff morale has increased. They like the reduction in chemicals and pollutants in their workplace and take pride knowing they are actively helping to protect the environment.


Oxford Panels is a family-owned panel beating and spray painting business established twenty-five years ago. Located in Oakleigh, Victoria, Oxford Panels has eight staff members. The business occupies a total floor space of around 500 square metres. The company's annual turnover averages $400,000.

In January 1992, management started to look at ways of improving business methods, to contain costs and operate in a more environmentally sound manner.

The process

Vehicles have to be rubbed down and washed at various stages during the painting process to remove chemical residues from the surface. Each vehicle to be painted is masked with recycled paper to protect areas from airborne paint particles, resulting in a 205-litre drum of this paper to be disposed of every week. After painting, the vehicles are put through a natural gas baking oven to ensure a better paint finish.

Cleaner production initiatives

Oxford Panels' staff were actively encouraged to become part of the cleaner production program and goals were set to reduce and avoid some types of waste. With staff help, four areas for improvement were identified, then specific measures were adopted. These measures are described below.

Onsite recycling

Thinners required in the painting process are used several times, instead of once. When no longer usable the thinners are stored in a drum and are recycled by a Victorian EPA-approved company at a cost of $25 per drum.
Old rags are reused for other tasks such as cleaning applicators or mopping up spills.

Sandpaper, which cannot be used in equipment after a certain amount of wear, is now recycled for sanding by hand.

Bins for rags and sandpaper are located next to each waste bin for recycling.

Offsite recycling

Scrap metal, batteries and radiators are sold to a scrap yard instead of being dumped.

The chrome from bumper bars is sold to a bumper bar repairer.

A local centre for the intellectually disabled removes the waste cardboard and sells it for recycling.

Reduction of waste volumes

Minor adjustments were made by staff to avoid spillage of liquids.

To avoid over-ordering, more care is given when ordering materials required for each job.

Recycled paper is used to mask vehicles during the painting process, and is now compressed with waste water from other processes into a 60-litre bucket. Previously, a 205-litre drum of this paper alone had to be disposed of every week. Once sufficiently packed, it is placed into the dumpmaster. This greatly reduces the quantity and volume of waste and the need for disposal once every six weeks.

Waste treatment

A triple interceptor has been installed in the washbay, where vehicles are rubbed down and washed at various stages to remove chemical residues from the surface. The triple interceptor collects and filters the water to remove the chemicals before it is discharged to the sewer, as outlined by a Trade Waste Agreement with Melbourne Water.

Overspray filters have been installed in the natural gas baking oven, where vehicles are placed to ensure a better paint finish. Air containing overspray is forced through filters before it is discharged into the atmosphere. Running water beneath the oven grating collects overspray. The sludge formed during this process is removed regularly by Premier Thinners. Through an approved process, Premier Thinners recycles this waste into modified paint and thinners that can be used as domestic cleaning agents.

Advantages of the process

Oxford Panels' cleaner production program has not only resulted in cost savings and better staff morale, but has also brought benefits for the environment.

Major operational benefits include:

  • Reusing some materials onsite has meant a reduction in purchasing costs of materials, as well as in the cost of removing waste such as thinners and paper.
  • Additional income is earned from recycling various materials - $40.00 per tonne of scrap metal; $1.00 per battery; $1.15 per kilo for radiators; $1.00 per bag for chrome from bumper bars - the main benefit being the reduction of expenditure on regular removal of the dumpmaster.
  • Less waste being sent to landfill has saved the business approximately $1,040 per annum in fees.

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