Nascar green flags 'e-scrap' recycling program

Nascar green flags 'e-scrap' recycling program

The sophisticated electronic components in race cars, fleet vehicles and the big rigs used for NASCAR are expected to be fodder for an e-waste program the racing organization is starting this season.

NASCAR plans to work on the initiative with Creative Recycling Systems, based Tampa, Fla., in the latest addition to the racing organization's recycling program, which already claims bragging rights as the largest and most diverse in pro sports.

NASCAR and CRS recently announced that the recycling firm has become one of the racing group's Official Green Partners. The company was introduced as a new green partner Friday in Daytona as fans and drivers prepared for the first race of the 2012 season in NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series.

The new relationship has huge potential for expanding the scope and volume of recycling by NASCAR and its business-to-business partners, said Mike Lynch, the managing director of NASCAR Green Innovation. "The real impact of these folks is pretty cool," he said.

Creative Recycling provides collection, recycling and recovery solutions for e-waste -- typically business equipment, personal gadgets and household electronics. The firm also contends with banking, financial and medical technology that has reached the end of its useful life in its original state.

Now, Creative Recycling will also recycle office equipment from NASCAR and its many business partners, including venues and race teams, said Lynch.

CRS also is to become the go-to firm for recycling electronic components in all the vehicles that make NASCAR possible, Lynch said. That ranges from the showpieces of the industry that speed around the tracks to the workaday vehicles -- the business cars used in fleets as well as the caravans of semis that haul NASCAR's portable media operations center, race cars, and driver and team equipment from venue to venue.

And CRS will work with NASCAR on fan engagement events, including collection drives, to promote the idea of e-waste recycling.

CRS will start with recycling the organization's business electronics and computer equipment, and then will expand the program to other materials and the promotions for fans as the two green partners develop their new relationship, Lynch said. He said he anticipates further news on the initiative, along with details on some activities for fans, this spring in time for Earth Day.

Boosting E-Scrap Recycling

The likely tonnage of e-scrap from NASCAR and its business partners can help expand the scope and reach of CRS's services, and NASCAR's broader recycling program, said the recycling company and the racing organization. And promoting the concept to the audience of America's No. 1 spectator sport, whose following is estimated at 75 million, is expected to raise the awareness of recycling personal and household electronics, computers and gadgets -- items that range from cell phones and laptops to TVs and stereo systems.

In business, e-cycling has become an expectation, Lynch said. "Companies are realizing that it is no longer acceptable for this material to go into landfill," he said.

More and more consumers are realizing it as well but are often stymied because it's not as easy to deal with e-waste as it is to recycle a newspaper or a bottle. Users have to find a place that accepts e-scrap and, often, must bring their material to a collection site. Bigger items, like televisions, can be problematic. And it's not always clear whether the items will be processed responsibly or domestically.

"And so, people will often just put their items into the trash and cringe," said Lynch. NASCAR focused on CRS because of its credibility as a responsible recycler, he said.

NextPage: Trying to Shrink the Environmental Tireprint of Racing

An industry leader, CRS is certified by the SGS US Testing Company for operating according to international standards for quality management systems. The firm also holds SGS certification for meeting international occupational health and safety management system standards pertaining to electronics recycling. In addition, the company has built a track record for giving reusable equipment a second life and making the most of opportunities to recover precious and rare metals from electronics that no longer function. "That's what CSR is all about," said Lynch.

There's always a strong market for the substances, and those that are recovered responsibly are in high demand given the growing pressure for tech companies to use conflict-free minerals and establish cleaner, more local supply chains.

NASCAR's Roster of Recycling Initiatives

NASCAR launched a slate of green initiatives four years ago to focus on waste, emissions and energy. Each year since, the number of measures taken in each category has grown and performance targets have doubled.

Last year, more than 12 million bottles and cans were diverted from landfill. Besides the more than 1,000 tons of material collected and recycled from NASCAR events, race car tires, batteries and motor oil were recycled as a result of NASCAR's work with Goodyear, Exide and Safety Kleen Systems.

Components for electronic fuel injection, now required in Sprint Cup Series race cars as of this season, eventually will go to the Creative Recycling Services's recycling program, Lynch said.

EFI does away with the Weber carburetor, which continued to be de rigueur among NASCAR race cars even though fuel injection had become standard in passenger vehicles for more than two decades ago. Fuel injection is expected to help drivers optimize their use of the ethanol blend Sunoco15, which NASCAR started using last year to reduce emissions. By the end of the 2011 season, NASCAR had driven more than 1.5 million miles on the fuel blend.

Trying to Shrink the Environmental Tireprint of Racing

NASCAR's attempts to reduce its emissions, energy use and waste are often met with skepticism, if not outright derision, from critics who point out that the environmental footprint of racing and the activities that support is still huge.

Lynch, brought aboard by NASCAR in 2008, and other proponents of environmental responsibility in racing acknowledge that motorsports have a long way to go and try to emphasize the work to reduce those impacts.

Green guru L. Hunter Lovins spoke about the value of bringing sustainability principles to the motorsports industry and its enormous fan base last summer at the Infineon Raceway in Northern California, whose operators have become known for their efforts to make the venue more energy efficient and generate less waste.

In her talk, Lovins noted critics' claims that NASCAR is greenwashing, then scoffed, "Oh so what." The important thing is that the sport has begun work to reduce its environmental impacts, she said, adding her now-classic quip: "Hypocrisy is the first step to real change."

How NASCAR Fans View Their Environmental Profile

The sport's attempts to raise fan awareness of eco-responsibility and earth-friendly behavior, like recycling, seem to be making headway, according to Lynch.

Recent NASCAR research indicates that 91 percent of fans say they recycle items at least some of the time, compared to 87 percent for non-fans. Also, two-thirds of NASCAR fans describe their households as very or somewhat green.

When NASCAR commissioned its first study of green perceptions and behavior in 2009, "what the data said was that fans and non-fans were equivalent from from a data standpoint," Lynch said.

The most current results show "an amazing movement of perception and awareness by fans especially when you consider that the overall perception and awareness by people in general have grown, too," he said.

NASCAR track photo by Walter G Arce / Shutterstock.com