Recycling and Reusing

Easily overlooked areas in the shop can help add income to your bottom line.


Unfortunately, every company makes scrap parts, and many of these parts are kept long after all MRB (Material Review Board) efforts to sell the parts have been exhausted. I’ve seen cabinets and skids full of parts just sitting there holding the floor down. There should be a company policy to dispose of these parts and get something from the material. I would recommend two things before actually throwing them out.

First, check the orders in which these parts were made and make sure these orders are closed and properly accounted for. Second, if these parts are aircraft, aerospace, or defense related, especially if there is a threat of counterfeiting or misrepresentation of the parts, the parts must be further destroyed somehow by grinding or otherwise removing material so that there is no question that these parts cannot be used. I have heard of people scavenging scrap barrels or dumpsters for unused parts that they take and sell as new.

Also, talk with your scrap dealer or recycler to determine what is the best method for accumulating these items that yields maximum dollars from them.

Most gear manufacturers know that the separation of materials (ferrous, non-ferrous, etc.) is the first step in maximizing scrap chip value. If you are producing large volumes of certain alloys, these should also be separated to raise the value. If the volume is large, you may want to consider some kind of compaction machine to densify the chips. These machines are not cheap, but if the investment calculation works, it’s worth it.

Of course, oils and other lubricants should be separated from the chips, as the scrap vendors are extremely sensitive to receiving these liquids into their own scrap yards.

Waste or Used Liquids

After the oil is spun out from the chips, the oil can be reused in cutting machines. If there are special oil needs in specific machines, avoid using the re-claimed oil in them. However, there are machines that can always use a top-off of cutting oil.

Another cost driver is the requirement to properly dispose of hazardous oils, solvents, and other liquids that are used in the shop. The cost for disposal can exceed the purchase cost for certain kinds of liquids, so talk to the disposal service and negotiate the rate if possible.

When using water in the shop, it may be possible to reduce the volume of the disposed liquid or solids by evaporating the water from the waste stream. At my shop, we used water in our vibratory finishing machines, and the exit stream of water was full of metal fines and abrasive dust. By boiling this stream, the resulting smaller volume of solids could be disposed of in our trash or chip dumpster. This saved on the cost of using a disposal service and doing a ton of paperwork.

As for grinding swarf and filter papers, talk with a reputable recycler or disposal service and work out a solution that is both practical and not overly expensive.

Paper, Wood, and Plastics

Many people recycle at their homes, and there is no reason that this can’t happen in the shop too. Discussions with a reputable recycler can help add some income from these products and remove them from the building. Boxes on empty wood skids can be fire hazards and take up valuable floor space. Large boxes can be compressed, and skids in good condition can be sold or re-used.

Unimportant, used letter and legal-sized papers can also be accumulated and sold for cash. Plastic materials should be separated and recycled. If lots of plastic chips are left over as a result of cutting or turning operations, these chips should be treated like the metal chips and sold separately.

If there’s not a buyer that will pay much for excess materials or unneeded equipment, there are two choices — donate them or sell them as scrap. By getting rid of them, at least you regain some floor space. Check with your local community college or high school manufacturing program as a donation source; you may even develop a relationship that could provide you with trained workers in the future.

These are some of the sources of income in your shop that can be easily tapped to add to your bottom line. As an added benefit, recycling or donating helps keep your shop clean and free of hazards that could affect your employees and your company.

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is the president of TopGun Consulting, a manufacturing consultancy with a focus on helping companies improve their practices and processes to increase the profitability and satisfaction of the owners of those companies. David has over 30 years of experience in manufacturing, more specifically in the gear industry. Using his experience, David is able to quickly assess difficulties  and recommend simple, yet effective, solutions to those issues. For more information, contact David Senkfor at or (602) 510-5998, or visit Top Gun’s website at