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Paint shop goes green

Staff writer

Starting Thursday, every color of paint used at Arlie’s Paint, Body, and Glass auto body shop in Marion will be tinted ‘green,’ as the shop has converted to using environmentally-friendly water-based paints.

“We’re going green,” owner Arlie Overton said. “It’s not required yet in Kansas, but we want to stay on that leading edge.”

Overton planned ahead for the conversion when he started construction of his shop on North Roosevelt Street in 2007.

“When we built this building three and a half years ago, we were looking then at going to a water-based paint, so we bought the new booth ready to go,” Overton said.

The oversized Aqua-Max paint and curing booth is equipped with lighting, ventilation, heating, and humidity-control systems needed to handle water-based paint application.

“We have a temperature-controlled booth that we can keep the humidity down and dry the air,” Overton said. “That’s the biggest thing with water-borne, keeping the air dry. If the air is wet, it’s not going to dry.

“The air comes in the ceiling and goes out the back. We’re always drawing air from outside, it fills the booth and creates positive pressure, so that when we open the booth it doesn’t suck air in, so we don’t have suction that draws dirt into the booth.”

Switching from solvent-based paint places Arlie’s in line with major car manufacturers, whose new cars have been rolling off the line for several years with water-based paint.

“Most of the cars we work on are five years old or newer. Everything is covered with water-based that goes back that far,” Overton said.

The new paint system will allow identical matching for paint on newer cars, and Overton said matching older vehicles covered with solvent-based paint won’t be a problem, either.

“Paint companies have formulated these to where they’ll match clear back to 1996 or ’97,” Overton said.

Overton and his son, Alan, who started painting when he was 15 and became the shop’s full-time painter after graduating high school three years ago, will be going to Dallas for training that will certify them in the new process.

“Around here, people don’t have to have that to open a shop, but to me it’s good to have those certifications,” Overton said. “It means the technician knows what to look for, he knows what to expect if something messes up on him, and he probably knows how to fix it.”

Training is essential as well for ensuring Overton can maintain an appropriate profit margin, without increasing prices.

“It can cost you way more if you’re not putting it on right. A quart of water-borne vs. a quart of solvent is more expensive, but it takes less to cover. It hides quicker, and takes less material to get your color match right,” Overton said.

“There will be a learning curve — we’ll lose some money right at first, but we’re not going to worry about that,” Overton said. “We’re just going to get good at it as quick as we can. We’ve sprayed enough of it I think we’ll make a smooth transition.”

Overton converted now, rather than wait for mandatory regulation, because of his belief that businesses should be examples when it comes to protecting the environment.

“Everything that we do that has a hazardous waste connected with, that waste is hauled off through our hazardous waste vendor,” Overton said. “We don’t go out back and dump anything out on the rocks, we don’t dump it down the drains, we don’t spray it in the air willy-nilly. Who would know if we were doing it? Probably nobody.

“Whether they care or not, we’re doing our part. Somebody has to take the lead and set the example for others, and we just want to do that.”

Overton also recycles all of his scrap metal and plastic bumpers.

“We could throw all that away, the trash would take it at no charge to us. But if you’re going to do one thing, you need to do the other,” Overton said.

His family is extra incentive to go green, Overton said.

“We’ve got three kids, we’ve all got kids, and I think we want to set a standard for them,” Overton said. “Especially with my son being my main painter, that’s a big push for me to go to water-borne. Spraying water-based paint is so much better for the painter health-wise versus solvent.”

Another example Overton chooses to set is supporting local business. He buys all his paint from Marion Auto Supply.

“Businesses here in the community, whether it’s Marion or Hillsboro, we’re all a big community, and we need to keep our stuff local,” Overton said.

Marion Auto Supply co-owner Doug Regnier is pleased to supply Overton, and came away from a demonstration of the water-borne system as an enthusiastic convert.

“It’s better for you environmentally, matching isn’t going to be a problem, the fumes aren’t as bad — it’s really a slick deal,” Regnier said. “It’s the wave of the future.”

Customers won’t see any differences in price with the new system, but Overton hopes there is one difference they notice.

“What impact will this have on the customer? Maybe none, other than just a feeling right here (pointing to his heart) that hey, I took it there and I know they’re doing the right thing,” Overton said. “At the end of the day, that’s important to me.”

Last modified Feb. 2, 2012

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