WICHITA, Kan.Brakes Plus Inc. has partnered with Universal Lubricants L.L.C., manufacturer and distributor of the Eco Ultra line of sustainable motor oils, as the newest member of its closed-loop cycle.
Universal collects used oil from our customers and then we take that used oil back to the refinery in Wichita, Kan., where we make the base oil; a high-quality base oil, said Cathy Smith, Universal Lubricants' director of national accounts.
And then from the base oil, it's blended with a premium additive package, which produces our Eco Ultra product.
Universal Lubricants, which began operating its oil re-refinery in 2009, said the product is licensed by the American Petroleum Institute (API) and meets or exceeds Society of Automtive Engineers (SAE) requirements and OEM specifications.
So that's why we call it a closed loop, Ms. Smith added, because we can continue to pick up the used oil and make product from it, bring it back out to customers, pick it up again as used oil and just continue over and over and over.
Brakes Plus, a family-owned automotive aftermarket business specializing in brakes and suspension, started using the Eco Ultra Synthetic Blend Motor Oil in July 2012 but didn't join the closed loop program until May 2013.
Really, what they decided to do is create a(n) option for their environmentally friendly, or environmentally conscious customer, so they decided to offer them this Eco-Ultra oil change, Ms. Smith said.
Brakes Plus has 64 locations that use the re-refined product, with 51 of those participating in the full closed-loop cycle.
We had actually been approached by some other suppliers, as far as using a re-refined oil, and we felt, especially in the Colorado market, that everything has gone a little bit more green, said John Koskovich, Brakes Plus director of products, pricing and purchasing.
We've looked at different recycling programs for trash, along that end. And we just decided it was time to go completely green in all the areas that we can in the business itself.
He said the company was drawn to Universal Lubricants' product because of the way it was actually re-refined and was also very competitive on a cost basis as well. Brakes Plus ran the product in a test market in Colorado, and after it proved successful, it decided to go full scale throughout the company.
Universal Lubricants collects used oil from approximately 15,000 locations nationwide.
Ms. Smith said the growing market for eco-conscious products will enable this program to keep on growing in the future.
There are many large, national companies that have sustainability initiatives,...and the main focus with their initiatives are reducing the carbon footprint and using less energy, Ms. Smith said.
She added that many companies want to save energy and recycle products.
Even the large trucking firms are doing things to make their trucks more efficient, reducing their fuel economy, by putting on wind skirts or things like that.
We feel it's a very strong movement and we are continuing to grow as the consumers' demand is.
When comparing Universal Lubricants' re-refining with a traditional process, Ms. Smith said 89 percent less energy is used, and the system produces up to 65-percent less environmental-impacting emissions.
And because we can do that over and over, there's never an end to the cycle, she added.
We're preserving our natural resources.
Ms. Smith said that both Brakes Plus and Universal Lubricants are taking this stance to try to just ensure that our resources are protected in that the environment is going to be safe because the used oil isn't going to get into the wrong hands or into the water source or things like that.
She said that this partnership is bringing Brakes Plus to another level on their sustainability efforts because now the company is participating in the whole circle.
Mr. Koskovich said Brakes Plus has had a positive experience with Universal Lubricants.
If we have a situation with them where we would run a huge promotion on oil services and we need more pickup, they are a phone call away.
Regular pickup is based on the volume of the stores.
We do have double-wall containers in all of our stores for waste oil, he added, and Universal has set up a schedule based on what we actually use and they come by. And sometimes it's as often as once a week.
Brakes Plus has been making strides to become more eco-conscious, even becoming a member of Green Shield Partners. That's an organization of automotive service companies whose mission is to create a more environmentally friendly automotive industry. The company's initiatives are showcased on its website, www.brakes-plus.com, with a Green Efforts tab.
Besides using re-refined oil, the company also recycles oil filters, uses re-refined anti-freeze and uses a parts washer solvent that is bio-degradable and is recycled.
Our parts cleaners that we use, we've got that all so that it's less detrimental to the environment itself, Mr. Koskovich said. We buy a lot in bulk. Instead of using plastic bottles, we actually use 55-gallon drums or larger now, so that we cut back on waste as well.
The Eco Ultra oil comes in a six-gallon bag-in-a-box for both cost efficiency and environment benefits.
He said the company also sells scrap metal for recycling, and is in the process of switching over all lighting in its locations to more efficient fixtures and bulbs.
Brakes Plus also has a department dedicated to policing its waste water and dirty oil pickup.
Those are just areas that we work on a daily basis to make sure that we're taking care of our stores so they don't have to, Mr. Koskovich said.
Our store managers concentrate on taking care of the customers and we take care of all of the other areas to help them be able to focus on that.
We're pretty much a full-service company looking to protect the environment the best we can.
To reach this reporter: jkarpus@ crain.com; 330-865-6143.