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Thursday, December 06, 2007

The Truth About Auto Recycling: Every New Beginning Comes From Some Other Beginnings End

As much as enthusiasts fawn over, dote on, and rub diapers across their rides, it's hard for them to comprehend that, at every other layer of the automotive strata, cars are just commodities. Consumer goods. And like other consumer goods, they have a limited life span. No matter how well they're made, how well they've been maintained or how fanatical the owner, some day they will all give up the ghost.

Once a car has done that, it's no longer someone's pride and joy. Its days of gratifying a new owner are through. Inviting the neighbors over to see the new toy, going for aimless cruises, and the cleansing sterility of fresh leather have all ebbed their flow. A car is no longer a car after it's reached the end of its service life. It's waste. And like most waste, cars are recyclable. Scratch that, they're among the most recycled products on the planet. In 1990, 75 percent of the weight of a car was recycled. By 2006, that figure had risen to 85 percent.

Some ten million cars will end their days during 2007. Their journey to rebirth begins at a dismantling facility-don't call it a mere junkyard. The title is stamped as "junk," turned in to the state and, even though it may not look the part, from that point on the car is condemned to never see the road again. Its VIN can never be re-issued, and the car can never be re-titled. The vehicle is dragged around back, a process that sounds a lot more dastardly than it actually is, and placed on an elevated rack, where a technician will start dismantling it.

Aluminum wheels that look scuzzy have their tires stripped off and are thrown into a standalone dumpster. Even with their thin coatings of paint and brake dust, aluminum wheels are considered a very desirable commodity for recyclers, who pay upwards of 75 cents a pound for them.

Catalytic converters can't be legally resold because there's no way to test their effectiveness - a salvaged cat may be worn out, melted, hollowed out, poisoned, or any other horrible thing. So those are torched off and sorted into another bin. They will be sold to recyclers who gut them of their monolithic ceramic or stainless steel cores, which are then ground down in order to reclaim the "washcoat" - the thin coating of rare and expensive platinum-group metals such as rhodium, platinum, and palladium. Different converters have different concentrations of those raw materials: The latest high-density catalysts from ultra-clean Partial-Zero Emissions Vehicles (PZEV) fetch upwards of $150. Bargain-bin "universal" converters bring a tenth that much.

With the car still up in the air, the brake hoses are cut, the fluid allowed to dribble into catch cans. Antifreeze, engine oil, and gear lube are all drained and sent to recyclers, who will distill, purify, and resell them. Refrigerant in the air-conditioning system is evacuated, cleaned, sorted according to type, and often resold to repair shops for fractions of its as-new cost.

After suffering the indignity of having its vital fluids piddled into drain pans, the car is lowered and the battery is removed. Batteries are nothing but a plastic shell and lead plates, and over 97 percent of a battery's weight - including even the acidic electrolyte sloshing around inside them - can be recycled.

Hoods and trunklids use mercury switches to turn on a light when they're opened. The switches are named because they actually do contain a drop of liquid mercury, and when they're tilted far enough is one direction, that blob rolls across two exposed wires, completing a circuit and making a cargo or hood lamp illuminate. Unfortunately, mercury is also a neurotoxin that can cause irreversible brain damage, so those switches can't be scrapped with the rest of the car. Dismantlers have a master list of every vehicle that contains mercury switches, and those equipped with them need to have the little offenders yanked out. The mercury ampule is then separated from the rest of the switch housing and tossed into a special recycling bin. HID headlights and navigation system screens use mercury, too, and those have to be broken down and recycled as well.

The car thus ravaged, any parts worth saving - an engine, a transmission, an alternator or starter - are pulled out and inventoried. The eviscerated body shell may be moved out into the junkyard proper, where it's picked clean of glass and interior bits, but that brief reprieve just postpones the inevitable. Every car that's come this far has a date with the crusher.

When thinking of crushers, we think of small, compacted car cubes, like the work of the French sculptor C├ęsar or the poor '64 Continental from Goldfinger. But those don't come from a car crusher; they come from a baler. A baler has arms that "roll" the car into a brick nearly three feet wide and two feet high. A crusher, by contrast, is a car-sized wine press that squeezes vehicle bodies nearly flat. Regardless of how they're compacted, every compressed hulk's final journey is to the shredder.

Automotive shredders are incredibly specialized and thoroughly badass pieces of equipment that, as their name implies, will turn a full-size car into chunks no larger than a clenched fist - in less than twenty seconds. There are two flavors of shredders in use, the first of which uses a toothed steel drum to tear a car body into tiny shards, the other relying on a spinning drum with violently swinging anvils to pummel and shatter anything fed into it. Anything being the pivotal word. Cast-iron engine blocks are broken into fragments. Steel torsion bars are snapped like pretzel sticks. Truck frames are torn into pocket squares. Keeping the drum of a shredder spinning requires an enormous amount of power - the average electric motor used to drive one is rated at 7000 horsepower. To put it a different way, the combined output of thirty Crown Victoria Police Interceptors, straining at full throttle, wouldn't be the equal of one shredder motor.

Exiting the shredder is a rain of debris, pieces that are small enough to fit in a clutch purse. The trail of detritus is sent through electromagnetic rotating drums, which pull anything ferrous - that is, iron or steel - to the outside, letting the other chunks and fragments fall to another conveyor belt. The ferrous scrap is loaded into rail cars and sent to foundries and steel mills, where it will be melted down and re-formed. A majority of the shredder's output gets hauled off this way - steel and iron make up 60 percent of the average car's weight.

On top of that, 15 percent of a former car is nonferrous scrap metal like copper and aluminum. Once the steel and iron has been extracted, those leftover metals go through a process of sorting using electrical conductivity. As the fragments are tugged along by a moving belt, overhead probes measure how readily each piece lets electricity flow through it. The ease with which electricity passes through a piece determines its composition, and the scrap is sorted accordingly. Pieces of the copper wiring harness go one way, aluminum cylinder heads and suspension cradles go another, and before long the only thing remaining of someone's second-largest investment is what's known, in the industry, as fluff.

Fluff is the name given to the 25 percent of vehicular dross that's left over once everything of value has been subtracted from the mix. Just about everything that new-car buyers base their purchasing decision on - heated leather seats, plush carpeting, a premium stereo system, backlit LED gauges, and soft-touch dashboard materials - are reduced to fluff by the shredder. Thrown into the mix are shards of pulverized windows and mirrors, bits of headlights, flakes of rubber hoses, crumbs of door seals, and slices of the occasional spare tire that wasn't removed before the car was sent to the hereafter.

A majority of fluff is sent to landfills, which use it to blanket their daily trash dumps and fill in voids. As some four million tons of shredder fluff end up being dumped every year, entire industries have developed around sorting and recycling the otherwise-useless stuff. A process developed at Argonne National Laboratory in Argonne, Illinois, is able to sort out plastic and rubber refuse, which can then be recycled into sound absorption mats and mudflaps. Yet other companies, such as PSA Peugeot Citroen, are designing interiors to be knocked apart by dismantlers when the cars first come into the salvage yard.

It's been said that with the volume of air in the world, every breath you take includes molecules that were first breathed by da Vinci, or Julius Caesar, or Jesus. Scrap never really dies - it merely changes forms. The cars we're driving today could very well have started life in the coke ovens of Ford's River Rouge plant or the smelters of Stadt des KdF-Wagens in pre-war Germany. And while it seems apocryphal to suggest that yesterday's S-class could be reformed into today's Hyundai Accent, the converse progression also holds true. Scrap is the great equalizer; it knows no conceit. And so the cycle - from salvage to showroom - perpetuates itself.

By Wes Grueninger,

Friday, November 30, 2007

Who consumes all those end of life vehicles?

Have you ever wondered who consumes all the end-of-life vehicles (ELV’s) in this province? If you have, you are not alone. About 1 million new automobiles are produced in the World each week, and in Ontario approximately 500,000 of them are put to rest each year.

An End-Of-Life Vehicle is one which has reached the end of the road by way of its age or collision write-off. The outcome is almost always the recycling of the vehicle for is scrap value however the processes used to achieve this differs widely. While some processes give ELV’s a respectable burial (utilizing proper equipment and care for its fluid removal) other processes do not. The issue of ELV’s is obviously an important one and Governments around the World are taking pro-active measures as they address the key issue of the environment. Much of the focus has been directed at the automakers to make their vehicles more recyclable. The ELV directive adopted last year requires all European Auto Makers to recycle or reuse 85% by weight of the metals and materials in each vehicle by 2006 and 95% by 2015. Significant progress is being made with the automakers but regardless of their efforts it does not solve the problem of what to do with the millions of vehicles that will eventually reach the end of the road.

At the Recycling Council of Ontario Roles and Responsibilities Forum, April 28, 1999 five distinct groups of businesses were identified that deal in the management of ELVs and irreparable vehicles.

Auto Dismantlers/Recyclers:
whose primary business is the sale of used auto parts. Material recovery is secondary. Fluid recovery is an integral part of processing each vehicle.

Salvage Yards:
whose primary business is metals recovery. The sale of used auto parts is secondary. Fluids are recovered if parts are to be removed. Scrap Metal Dealers/ Junk Yards: whose only business is metals recovery. Fluids generally are not recovered.

Car Dealers, Body Shops, Tow-Trucks:
This category includes backyard mechanics, and also auto thieves and organized international and domestic auto theft rings. Of the five distinct groups of businesses involved in the management of ELV’s only the Auto Dismantler/Recycler ensures fluid recovery as an integral part of the processing of each vehicle.

There has been some very interesting “shifts” that have taken place with the ELV. In years past it was safe to say that most vehicles were purchased by Auto Dismantlers/Recyclers for processing and then the to the scrap processors to carry on the recycling process. Today, this is not necessarily the case. Salvage yards and Scrap Metal Dealers do not incorporate the same processes as Auto Dismantlers to ensure that proper fluid evacuation and disposal of these fluids takes place.

The underground economy, which acquires vehicles from the public or at salvage auctions (where anyone with any business license can attend) also has a detrimental effect on the community in that parts are bought and sold for cash. The Government realizes no revenue from these transactions.

This fact, coupled with the realization that many salvage vehicles are being exported out of the country accounts for the reduction of available used parts for the public.

The benefits of recycling the ELV and the potential re-use of its parts is the only way to save our precious natural resources. It’s incredibly heartwarming to hear that 50% of parts bought in a Country like South Africa are used OEM parts. Wouldn’t it be nice if our country could top 10% and possibly 20% in the near future?

As for who consumes the ELV’s? There is no public agency keeping accurate records of vehicle disposal in this province. This may help explain why pro environmental fluid evacuation procedures have not been fully developed. You can’t fix what you don’t know is broken.

Hopefully, government agencies will get their act together and join the UCDA, OADA, Hamilton Auto Body Repair Association and the RCO to support the Ontario Auto Recyclers Association (OARA) initiatives of accreditation and licensing for our industry. OARA is here to help in the solution.

What does this mean to you? How can you help? Next time you are ready to scrap your vehicle, ensure that it goes to an accredited recycler, one that has the necessary equipment and facilities to properly handle that ELV responsibly.

By David Gold, Standard Auto Wreckers

Monday, November 26, 2007

Car-makers must reduce scrap from cars

Car manufacturers must do more to recycle cars for car-making to remain a sustainable proposition, according to a new report.

The study by Oxford Brookes University calls for new technologies, design approaches and better infrastructures to ensure cars generate less unusable waste.

The warning comes on the back of research which predicts that more cars will be built in the next 25 years than in the entire history of car-making to date - 1.48 billion by 2030 - thanks to a huge increase in demand from emerging economies.

That demand will see a massive increase in the amount of scrap generated by the industry, put at 3.5bn tonnes between now and 2030 - enough to fill Wembley Stadium more than 1,000 times.

Presently around 75% of material is recovered from scrapped cars, but plastics, rubber and glass are sent to landfill sites. By 2015 95% of all material used in cars must be recycled, according to EU legislation.

The report has been issues by DRIVENet – the UK Network for the design for dismantling, reuse and recycling in road vehicles, which is led by Oxford Brookes university.

Prof Allan Hutchinson, who co-authored the report - said: "How to dispose of vehicles more effectively may not be the most glamorous part of the motor industry, but it may well ultimately be the most important for a sustainable one.

"We believe this work can provide the basis for the extensive research necessary to develop new technologies together with the automotive industry to ensure its obligations can be met in a timely manner."

Friday, November 16, 2007

Clean Air Foundation wins the Gold Award in the Climate Change category for Car Heaven at the 2007 Canadian Environment Awards

Canadian Environment Awards – June 4, 2007

You may think of your ancient auto as a near-classic, but science is less sentimental. While your car may still have some roadworthy kilometres left, its fuel efficiency and emissions technologies don't compare to the sweet rides built today. Indeed, since you drove your circa 1991 car off the lot, the auto industry has reduced smog-forming vehicle exhausts by almost 90 percent, which means the longer old faithful stays on the road, the more harm it is doing to the environment.

And that's where the angels at Car Heaven can help. Car Heaven wants to give your old car the best afterlife possible — one that treads lightly on the Earth. "We're trying to connect the dots from the issue to a solution," says Fatima Dharsee, manager of the Toronto-based program. "We want to make it easy for people to do the right thing and deliver tangible environmental results in the process."

One of several environmental initiatives developed by the Clean Air Foundation, Car Heaven was launched in the Greater Toronto Area nearly seven years ago with private and public sector support. By the end of this year, it will be available in all 10 provinces. "Our goal is to link education and incentives to public action," explains Dharsee. "We try to work our idea into the auto recyclers' business models, using the best environmental practices."

A free tow, a tax-deductible donation to the charity of your choice, free transit passes and bicycle-buying rebates are among the incentives to get clunkers off the road for good. Plus you might be eligible to receive a $1,000 credit toward the purchase of a new GM vehicle. "After the first few years of the program, we saw that too many people were replacing their donated cars with other used vehicles," says Dharsee, "so we added the new-purchase incentive in 2005." At the auto recycler, your old beater is drained of its fluids, mercury switches are removed, any salvageable components are reclaimed and all remaining parts and materials, from engine to bumper, are stripped and slated for recycling or safe disposal.

With more than 47,000 vehicles marked RIP, Car Heaven is making Earth a little more like paradise for us all. Car Heaven is run in conjunction with the Automotive Recyclers of Canada and is member associations.

Friday, November 09, 2007

European Update

EGARA, the umbrella auto recycling association in Europe, meets next week in Brussels. As a prelude to the meeting they issue country reports providing status reports, new initiatives, etc. I have extracted a few of the germane concepts to show what our European brethren are dealing with. We seem to be all "suffering" from high scrap prices, unfair competition, and porous regulatory schemes.

• Illegal operators allowed to continue in business - affecting trading conditions.
• Vehicle salvage is still a sought after commodity, particularly 3 to 7 year old vehicles, pushing prices higher.
• Illegal activity of non-licensed sites is being pursued by the EA (Government). We at the MVDA believe this should be more energetic, with more resources thrown at these sites, rather than the ‘softer’ option of visiting those sites who want to comply, and are already licensed.
• Shortage of naturally arising ELV’s going to dismantling sites, we feel many go straight to the shredder
• Working with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the Environment Agency (EA) to determine the official text defining the moment a motor vehicle becomes an ELV.
• Unlicensed sites – reporting known ones to the EA for action to be taken
• Putting pressure on government for changes to UK legislation re: COD's (Certificate of Destruction). There will be only 946,000 COD’s issued but 2 million vehicles reaching end of life this year!

• High scrap metal prices but the future is uncertain and there is a risk that we will see many abandoned ELVs.

• In Poland 80% of ATFs (Authorized Treatment Facilities) now use shredders. ATF send scrap metals directly to steelworks.
• In Poland we have still problem that a lot of cars are not treated in ATF (90%)
• Every year, more than 100,000 ELVs cross the border and are dismantled by grey area in Poland.
• Control of flow cars between countries are needed.
• We need a control of number deregistered cars and number of ELVs treated by ATF to be sure that all car are treated by recycling system.

• 23 members of the Danish association are now ISO 9001:2000 Quality Certfication approved by the authorities and many of them for the third time!
• Our problems in Denmark are still the high prices when buying cars on the insurance internet-platforms.

• Norway has a wreck deposit system where the last owner receives approximately 190€ ($260 Cdn) when the car is delivered to an approved ATF (a wreck deposit receipt is then being issues and the car is then defined an ELV). The wreck deposit system has been organised by the government since it was implemented in 1978 and has been very successful.
• The high scrap metal prices attract new actors to the business. The competition is getting harder.
• The concern however is that new actors do not focus on reuse. We have made an inquiry to the Ministry of the Environment to specify stronger in the Norwegian regulation for ELV the priority of reuse before recycle.

• With the high scrap price, a large number of illegal operators are running after ELVs who would disappear if the prices were going down. They affect trading conditions.
• There is lack of elvs and more precisely salvage cars.
By the end of the year, the government has planned to re-start a take-back action of older or more polluting cars in exchange of a premium which could reach 1000€ ($1,390 Cdn)

• All dismantlers have to get their licence to continue their activities. This licence has a time limit of maximum 5 years. After this period you have to apply again for it. Important: You must be audited by a third party = certification is compulsory. VASSO-Recycar-Cert is recognized as a valid certification. Dismantlers with no certification have to stop their business immediately.
• As an effect of unbelievable high scrap prices we have too much dealers in our country. They can live from this alone. They will disappear as soon the prices will go down. In them moment it is almost impossible to get enough cars. Even not for very good prices. Spare-part-business runs well, but there is a lack of supply in longer terms.

• Shredders have abruptly risen up the price for cars they paid directly for the last car owners. This way we get fewer cars as before. We do not believe they can treat the cars for recycling according the Directive.

Across Europe, scrap prices are in the $180 to $220 Cdn range.

Recycled parts? With the right incentive…

Using more recycled OE parts may be good for the environment, and good for the insurer’s bottom line, but it is not always good for repairers yet. To get collision shops choosing recycled more often, insurers need to make recycled parts a more profitable option.

Auto recyclers have a role to play in helping to ensure collision repairers and insurers are profitable. Increasing the use of recycled OEM parts is often seen as one of the last frontiers for insurers managing their costs and repairers lowering the incidence of total loss vehicles.

In reality, most auto recyclers today are in the parts business, not the business of recycling vehicles for profit. Every vehicle has its share of recyclable metals for the scrap industry, and cores for the rebuilding industry, but the cost to get at these elements generally can’t cover the cost to buy, tow, catalogue, disassemble, drain, or crush the vehicle.

So today’s recycler is really in the re-use business; all the processing activity is geared to get at those valuable parts for re-use, and to do so in an environmentally sustainable manner.

Changing dynamics between recyclers, repairers and insurers
Auto recyclers interact with collision repairers and insurers in two fundamental and intertwined ways -– we acquire total loss vehicles as our basic inventory supply, and we sell recycled OEM parts. Recycled parts are also referred to as LKQ (like kind and quality) or salvage parts.

This positive cycle of re-using total loss vehicles to decrease claims severity has been going on for decades. But subtle events have changed the dynamics within these inter-related industries, leaving each party grasping for solutions.

- Insurers across Canada have been clamoring for the increased use of “alternative” parts, meaning recycled or aftermarket parts, in order to control their costs. At the same time their asset managers want to maximize the return on vehicles sold as salvage.
- Repairers have seen an unprecedented rise in total loss vehicles leaving their facilities, resulting in fewer repair opportunities.
- Recyclers are starved for inventory, or better stated, starved for the right inventory at the right price, resulting in lost sales and redundant inventory.

Traditionally, there has been precious little dialogue between these industry stakeholders to solve collective problems. Some jurisdictions have better success than others. While this is not a call for public insurance, it does seem that provinces with a single insurer are better able to address industry-wide solutions. But we can all learn from these unique and somewhat controlled circumstances.

As an example, in Manitoba, Manitoba Public Insurance (MPI) funds the operation of the Recyclers Central Office (RCO). The RCO functions as a data clearinghouse between the auto recyclers and MPI. Every claim is transmitted to the RCO, which re-broadcasts the part requirements to members of the Automotive Recyclers of Manitoba association. The recyclers reply to the RCO within a set time period, listing the availability of the requested parts; prices are not involved.

The RCO sends the responses to MPI, and where recycled parts are available, they are written in to the estimate. The repairers are paid 60% of OEM price for each part (assembly pricing is not utilized) over 10 years old, 45% for 11 years and older.
Recyclers sell parts to repairers at 25% less than this 60%/45% compensation rule.

The result? MPI saves millions every year, and Manitoba has the highest recycled part utilization in Canada.

Profitability is built in
There are several reasons this model works. Self-policing with regard to quality is built in to the system -– recyclers selling junk are weeded out early because they are responsible for freight and warranty claims, and can ultimately be removed from the system. All order cancellations or returns require a cancellation number which is tracked and auditable. Parts can’t be returned on the whim of a repairer.

Technology is also a factor -– having every estimate scanned for recycled parts ensures accurate information is delivered to the right person at the right time. Similar technological tools exist in every part of Canada, such as the Allied system in BC, Audatex’s Real Steel Download,, Mitchell’s QRP, in Quebec, etc.

I believe the truly unique thing about the Manitoba situation is that the profitability of using recycled parts is built in to the system, and has been for some time. Once the right economic incentives are in place for a repairer to make a fair return, the other “issues” with using recycled parts tend to solve themselves.

Let’s face it, we are all in this game to generate a profit, for our shareholders, for ourselves, or just to keep the doors open. Operational decisions, including what parts we use, are fundamentally economic decisions. Of course there are quality issues, safety issues, CSI issues, cycle time issues, but often these mask or are a proxy for profitability issues.

Private insurers turning to incentives
Some private insurers are also getting on board and generating increased recycled parts usage by allowing a higher markup on recycled parts. These markups bring the profitability closer to that of new parts and they help to compensate repairers fairly. The messaging is pretty powerful: “We want you to use more recycled parts to save us money, so we are going to pay you accordingly.”

I know of two insurers who are allowing 25% and 30% markups respectively, and they are willing to look at higher markups because the response has been so dramatic. To be fair, those insurers are also looking at program-wide changes with full consultation with recyclers and repairers, so they are playing with the full tool set – pricing, education, knowledge, communication, targets, etc. But if you talk to a shop on the program, they repeat the obvious: “We make more money now using recycled parts.”

Allowable markups are but one part of the equation in recognizing recycled parts profitability. Again, if insurers want more recycled parts usage, they need to look at the suite of options available to them.

Insurers shoot themselves in the foot by refusing to add time, or limiting the extra time, for clean up and prep. We sell used auto parts – “road tested” in the marketing vernacular. They’re made to factory OEM specs (because they are factory installed), they come with all the extras, and they fit, but they can require clean up and prep. This needs to be recognized in the estimating software and by insurers policies. You can probably predict how far ahead the mantra of “Use more used, but I’m not going to pay you for it” will get any of our three industries.

Recycled parts have other profitability angles. They can positively impact cycle time as they are readily available for same or next day delivery in most cases (quality recyclers are spread throughout Canada. Recycled parts generally come as assemblies, thus saving on total part cost, labor time and cycle time. A good example of all of benefits is a quarter panel with a wheel housing assembly. If total cost is considered, this part should be included in a repair because it would be better quality, faster, cheaper, and readily available.

How do we make this happen?
So you’re saying, “Great, the guy who represents auto recyclers in Canada wants my shop to make more money using his product.” Great, as a shop owner, I’m convinced. I want to make more money using recycled OEM auto parts too. How do we make this happen?

Public insurers have been working on this for years, and in my opinion are way ahead. Private insurers, because of the nature of the business, tend not to share this type of information. For those insurers who are using market-based pricing models, take note -- the market has changed regarding how other insurers are approaching recycled OEM parts. All insurers need to look at their total compensation package for recycled parts and make sure they are sending the right messages.

For repairers who are not receiving those higher markups, tell insurers that a new benchmark exists in the industry. Recycled OEM parts are part of a smart, safe, productive repair and you deserve the right type of compensation to make sure they are included in every estimate.

Let’s make new OE parts the alternative, not the standard. But make sure shops’ bottom lines don’t bear the brunt of this transformation, or it will never happen.

Recycled parts are a “green” solution – for your business and the environment.
Good recyclers (and yes that does imply there are bad recyclers – but that’s another article) provide the last owner of a vehicle free stewardship for the numerous potentially hazardous materials in today’s vehicles. We properly drain, store and dispose of oils, gasoline, tires, mercury switches, CFCs, antifreeze, windshield washer fluid, etc.

In a time of increased sensitivity about environmental matters and climate change, recycled OEM parts are about as green as it gets. Increasing their usage is not only good for an insurer’s bottom line, but with the right policy changes and incentives it could be good for repairers – leading to a greener tomorrow for us all.

Steve Fletcher, Managing Director, Automotive Recyclers of Canada

Monday, July 30, 2007

Vehicle Recycling Infrastructure in North America

Re-Think Recycling

The world of the automotive recycler has been infiltrated. Their secrets exposed, their operation examined. Are they upset? Do they want justice? Not in the slightest. In fact, the raid was their idea in the first place.

Top executives representing Canada’s most influential insurance companies were invited to take a look inside three of Ontario’s biggest and busiest recyclers, Dom’s Auto Parts, Standard Auto Wreckers and Carcone’s Auto Recycling and Wheel Refinishing.

There is a lot of hearsay about what goes on in the recycling yard. This was the day to set the record straight.

At 8:00 a.m. the bus leaves for Dom’s Auto Parts in Oshawa. As we arrive the group is educated on the beginning stages of recycling a vehicle.

Clean up of the part is extremely important to the insurance company, so owner Dom Vetere is particular in explaining how his team dismantles each vehicle properly in order to provide the best quality product. The group of insurance brokers is clearly impressed with the facility.

“It’s an eye opener,” proclaims Dominic Maurini, ING Direct. “It’s refreshing to see how organized everyone is.”

Following the presentation the bus ventures into the massive 55 acre spread. Dom explains how the cars are categorized.

“It’s much more high-tech than it used to be,” says Dom. “All parts are bar coded, tagged and entered in the computer, making the operation easier to regulate and much more efficient.”

The tour heads next to Standard Auto Wreckers in Scarborough where owner Dave Gold discusses parts grading. Each part is coded to accurately assess the amount of damage. “Grading hones in on where the damage is,” he explains.

The group is then ushered toward a fleet of golf carts waiting to be driven through what feels like an endless collection of car mirrors, doors, bumpers, front ends and grills.

Standard Auto Wreckers is famous for their ‘You Pick’ weekends where people are invited to stroll through the yard and pick out whatever pieces they desire.

The last stop on the tour is Carcone’s Auto Recycling and Wheel Refinishing in Aurora.

Here the insurers are introduced to Carcone’s famous wheel room, where wheels from all salvaged cars are taken, restructured and refinished through stages of power coating, aluminum shaving and painting to look brand new.

“This is quite the operation,” says Rich Zamperin of Allstate Insurance.

After the wheel room the insurance brokers get an inside look at the soft ware Carcone’s uses to price out vehicles they want to buy from an auction.

“It’s interesting,” says Dominic Maurini, “The buying and selling of parts has escalated to the point of an art form.”

One thing is clear, the communication barrier between these two industries has been dissolved, and hopes for the future are high.

Written by Andrea Smitko, Collision Repair Magazine

Monday, July 16, 2007

European End of life Vehicle Directive

The European Commission has been striving for a legally binding framework to address the issue of end-of-life vehicle (ELV) management in Europe. A number of European countries have already adopted their own take-back programs but the Commission is hoping that legislation consistent across all Member States will reduce the inefficiencies that result from incompatible national initiatives. These inefficiencies often result in trade and competition distortions and higher overall costs.

The ELV Directive applies the "Extended Producer Responsibility Principle", requiring manufacturers to take back vehicles once they have reached the end of their lives at no cost to the consumer. The directive also specifies a number of additional requirements for vehicle manufacturers, material manufacturers and Member States.

Prevention Requirements
The ELV Directive calls for vehicle manufacturers to eliminate by July 1, 2003, the use of hazardous substances, including lead, mercury, hexavalent chromium and cadmium (with a few exceptions) in the vehicle production process. This is meant not only to protect the environment from the release of such hazardous substances, but also to make the recycling process easier. The proposed Directive also calls for manufacturers to re- examine their design considerations and incorporate concepts such as design-for- dismantling and design-for-recycling. Manufacturers are encouraged to utilize more recycled content in new vehicles, providing new markets for the recycled materials that would result from the recycling process.

Collection Requirements
Member States will be required to ensure that an adequate collection system is in place for all end-of-life vehicles (ELVs) and that all ELVs are transferred to legitimate treatment facilities at the cost of the producer. A "certificate of destruction" is also required to de-register the vehicle. De-registration must be done by the vehicle’s last owner at a licensed dismantler. All dismantlers must obtain a permit to handle ELVs. Permit conditions include credited de-pollution procedures and designated parts removal in order to facilitate the reuse and recycling of batteries, tires, operating fluids, hazardous components, CFCs and air bags.

Treatment Requirements
Each Member State must ensure that all end-of-life vehicles are stored and treated in an environmentally sound manner by certified treatment operations.

Re-use and Recovery Requirements
The proposed directive sets clear, quantifiable targets and places responsibility for the reuse, recycling and recovery of vehicles and their components on the automobile producers. The ELV directive mandates recycling rates of 80 and 85 percent, respectively, for vehicles put on the market after 2006 and 2015. Recovery targets (which States must ensure that vehicle producers, in partnership with material and equipment manufacturers, adopt consistent coding standards for materials and components to facilitate an easier dismantling process. Manufacturers must produce and distribute disassembly manuals within six months after a vehicle is put on the market to assist certified auto recyclers with recycling and to aid certified treatment operators in the identification of hazardous components.

Reporting and Information Requirements
Vehicle manufacturers are obligated to compile specific data and report regularly to designated authorities. The data in the following list must also be provided to prospective vehicle buyers as part of the promotional material for the vehicle.

Required data includes information on:
- the design of vehicles and their components with a view to their recoverability and recyclability;
- the environmentally sound treatment of end-of-life vehicles, in particular the removal of all fluids before dismantling;
- the development and optimization of ways to re-use, recycle and recover end-of- life vehicles and their components; and,
- the progress achieved with respect to recovery and recycling in reducing the waste-requiring disposal and to increase the recovery and recycling rates
In turn, Member States are required to report to the European Commission every three years so that it can determine whether targets are being met and whether goals need to be revisited or adjusted.

Implementation Requirements
Member States are required to bring the ELV Directive into force five years after the adoption of the Directive by the European Commission. Enforcement is mandatory, and objectives have to be met within the established timelines. In cases of non-compliant organizations, Member States are required to take regulatory or administrative measures. The ELV Directive is still before parliament and therefore a work in progress. If adopted this year, vehicle manufacturers will have until 2006 to prepare for taking some financial responsibility for the take-back and recycling of end-of-life vehicles. There has been a great deal of discussion around who should take responsibility for older vehicles (those produced before 2006) that were not designed with future disassembly or recycling in mind. After significant amendment, it is now up to Member States to ensure that producers meet all, or a significant part of, the costs associated with the implementation of this Directive without hindering the functioning of market forces.

DIRECTIVE 2000/53/EC OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 18 September 2000 on end-of life vehicles

Auto Fluff - What to do with the remaining 25 percent?

The recycling of scrap metals from automobiles is a little known success story. While community and municipal blue box campaigns tout a 25 percent success rate, a 75 percent recycling rate for automobiles is often overlooked. However, the 25 percent that remains, called auto fluff, is a recycling dilemma that demands attention and solutions. Why?

Estimates indicate that 700 000 automobiles are disposed of in Canada annually, generating approximately 700 000 tonnes of ferrous scrap materials and 200 000 tonnes of auto fluff. Auto fluff is a complex mixture of non-ferrous materials including plastics, foam, textiles, rubber and glass. Because this fluff is complex and is contaminated with rust, dirt and a variety of fluids, its recyclability poses a challenge to Canadian shredding operators.

As well as the difficulties inherent in recycling auto fluff materials, Canada's recycling industry must also deal with recent auto manufacturing trends. In an effort to achieve better fuel economy and reduce emissions, automobile manufacturers are using lighter weight, non-metallic materials. Newer automobiles are manufactured using less metal, while the use of plastics and other non-ferrous components is increasing. The net effect leaves shredders with lower volumes of recyclable metal and greater volumes of auto fluff for disposal or recycling.

Consequently, the need to explore new and innovative ways to recycle auto fluff, or to recover valuable resource material from this waste, is an urgent environmental and economic issue. The National Research Council's Institute for Environmental Research and Technology works with Canada's plastics industry, auto manufacturers and shredding operators to identify opportunities to recover potentially valuable resources from this waste stream. Some options being investigated are the use of the material as an alternative landfill day cover, the combination of auto fluff materials with other recycled plastics to produce composite materials, and using shredded material as a pyrolytic feedstock to recover chemicals and fuels.

Recycling Automotive Glass

Currently, about 75 percent of junked vehicles are shredded to recover iron and steel. After the ferrous material is magnetically separated, the remainder (225-250 kg/car) contains 16 percent of glass originating from windshields, side windows and sunroofs, most of which is not normally recovered and ends up in landfill.

Experienced car dismantlers report that up to 30 percent of windshields are broken, because of current methods of sealing and trimming. Unless car makers change design practices, this breakage rate is unlikely to decline. Current practices in glass recovery include removal for reuse, cryogenic "crumbing" of glass windshields and heat-assisted separation of sandwiched glass. A Japanese company, Asahi Glass Co. Ltd., has patented a method where the laminate is softened, allowing for the recovery of glass without contamination by plastics.

New developments in auto glass such as "heads-up display," quick defrost windshields, new tinting techniques, metallic crystal alignment films and implosion proofing by a new inner polymer laminate will further complicate the recovery or reuse of these glasses.

Recycled glass is put to various uses. If uncontaminated by plastic, it can be melted and spun into fibreglass or moulded into other products. Other uses include glass beads and reflective additives. Impure glass can also be considered for incorporation into architectural aggregate, or ground for abrasives.

Used Oil Recycling

Of the approximately 1 billion litres of lubricating oil sold in Canada each year, only 250 million litres are currently recovered. The process of returning used oil back to its original useful state is called "re-refining." Used oil can be re-refined into lubricating oil many times with only minor losses and the process takes only one-third the energy of refining crude oil into lubricating oil.

Lubricating oil consists of hydrocarbons (long chains of carbon atoms). Most lubricating oil molecules will generally have between twenty-five and forty carbon atoms in these hydrocarbon chains. Collected used oil is usually a mixture of different types of lubricating oils, which has been contaminated or chemically changed. Dirt, metal particles, fuels, oxidized oil and water are the most common contaminants. Chemical changes are also possible where one or more of the hydrogen atoms in the hydrocarbon chain is replaced by oxygen, sulphur, or other elements or molecules.

One commercial process for recycling used oil is known as the vacuum distillation/hydrotreating process. It involves two basic steps: a distillation step to remove trapped waste water and fuel, and a hydrotreating step to remove other impurities such as sulphur, nitrogen and chlorinated compounds.

Distillation of used oil occurs in four stages. The first stage removes water, most of the solvents and any light fuels (e.g., gasoline). The separated water is treated in the wastewater treatment system and released back into the environment, while the light organics are used as fuel at the site. The dewatered oil goes through a second distillation step where the remaining fuel oils are removed in a vacuum fuel stripper. In this process, the oil is heated under vacuum at lower temperatures, thus avoiding the high temperatures that would cause the hydrocarbon chains to break into small fragments or coke up (form a solid material similar to coal). The removed product, a material similar to home heating fuel, is used as fuel at the re-refinery.

The third and fourth distillation steps are identical and are performed in machines called thin film evaporators. These evaporators operate at lower vacuum and higher temperatures than the vacuum fuel stripper. The objective is to vaporize the lubricating oil as gas, leaving the dirt and other physical impurities behind. In the thin film evaporators, the oil flows down a double-pipe heat exchanger where a set of wiper blades spreads it against the wall of the central pipe. This aids the evaporation process. The lubricating oil gases are collected and condensed into liquid oil. Any material that does not evaporate in the third and fourth stage evaporator can be used as an asphalt extender in roofing and asphalt paving.

After distillation, the liquid oil is chemically treated using hydrogen gas at high temperature and high pressure. These conditions result in replacing any missing hydrogen atoms in the hydrocarbon chains and effectively removing sulphur, chlorine, oxygen and other impurities.

The final oil product is a base-oil stock of a quality similar to the virgin lubricating oil. The recycled oil is blended with different additives to produce motor oils, hydraulic oils or other specialty oils.

Information provided by: Frank Wagner at 1-800-265-2792 ext. 325, Safety-Kleen, Breslau, Environmental Health and Safety Department.

Scrap Tire Recycling

At present, approximately 40% of the scrap tires produced annually in Canada and the United States are reused, recycled or recovered. Since 1990, when 14 million tires caught fire in Hagersville, Ontario, provincial regulations have limited the number of tires that can be buried in landfills or stored above ground. While landfill use is declining, the recycling of tires is growing. However, demanding product specifications for safe, durable tires make them more difficult and expensive to break down. Some experts say that reclaiming original components from scrap tires is like trying to recycle a cake back into its original ingredients.

Tires, which are generally composed of approximately 65% rubber, 10% fibre and 25% steel by weight, can be recycled in two forms: processed and whole. Whole tire recycling involves using the old tire, as is, for other purposes (e.g., landscape borders, playground structures, dock bumpers and highway crash barriers). The recycling of processed tires, on the other hand, requires first reducing the tire to smaller pieces. This can be accomplished by chopping, shredding, or grinding at ambient or cryogenic temperature. Cryogenic processing involves cooling scrap tire rubber with liquid nitrogen. Rubber, steel, and fibre are then separated out using magnets, screens and density techniques. The main difference between ambient and cryogenic methods is that they produce products of different size and have readily apparent cost differences. Cryogenic processing achieves smaller rubber particles than ambient processing, but is more costly. Crumb rubber (from either process) can be used as a substitute for virgin rubber in a variety of products such as bonding tape, irrigation pipes, carpet underlay, footwear, recreational surfaces, waterproofing compounds for roofs and walls, joint and crack sealants, and as an additive in asphalt cement for paving roads. Finely processed, cryogenic ground rubber can be combined with polymers to produce materials used in applications traditionally reserved for plastics.

Approximately 60% of scrap tires are currently used as fuel. Whole or shredded tires are burned (scrap tires have about 10% more heat value by weight than coal). Fifteen percent of processed scrap tires are recycled into rubber products and twenty five percent are used as gravel substitutes in landfill liners and experimental road beds.

Automotive Battery Recycling

There are approximately 20 million vehicles in service on Canadian roads, with each car or truck having a lead-acid battery containing 8-12 kg of lead. Lead-acid batteries are classified as secondary (rechargeable) wet cell batteries. These batteries are composed of a plastic casing containing several cells connected in series to give a total battery potential of about 12 V. The anode consists of a lead grid filled with spongy lead, and the cathode is a lead grid filled with lead dioxide. Both electrodes are immersed in a solution of 38% (by weight) sulphuric acid. When the battery discharges, solid lead sulphate formed in the cell reaction adheres to the grid surfaces of the electrodes and the sulphuric acid is consumed. Charging the battery, by passing a direct current through it, reverses the chemical changes and regenerates the acid.

The demand for lead-acid batteries shows steady growth, and is likely to continue to grow in the foreseeable future because of both the growth in conventional vehicles and the emerging popularity of the electric car. While a number of battery technologies are under development, it is generally believed that none yet offers comparable economies to the lead-acid battery. At present, approximately 90% of used lead-acid batteries are being recycled. The lead-acid battery recycling industry must address a number of environmental issues regarding air, water, and solid waste management practices that have an impact on the collection, transportation, and recycling of spent batteries.

The commercial process used to recycle lead-acid batteries is designed to recover:

The lead sulphate/lead oxide battery paste (after desulphurization), which is later treated in a smelting furnace to recover lead.

Lead grids and poles, which can be treated in a smelting furnace with a metal yield of 90%.

Polypropylene, which can be sold directly or upgraded to produce high-quality pellets.

Anhydrous sodium sulphate, as a detergent-grade product for resale to detergent manufacturers and glass works.
The main features of the recycling process include:

Pre-crushing of batteries to remove the sulphuric acid solution.

Initial separation of iron material by a magnetic separator.

Wet-screening to separate the battery paste (a mixture of lead sulphate and lead oxide).

Separation of the metallic lead and plastic components in a hydrodynamic separator, isolating the various components due to their density differences. In water, polypropylene floats, lead sinks and separator material and ebonite overflow to a vibrating screen. The water used in the hydrodynamic separator is collected in settling tanks for reuse.

The recovered battery paste is treated with a sodium carbonate solution in a desulphurization process to convert the lead sulphate to lead carbonate and sodium sulphate. The former is treated for lead production. Because the lead sulphate has been converted to carbonate form, the smelting process operates at lower temperature with no sulphur oxide emissions. The sodium sulphate solution is crystallized and dried to produce a detergent-grade sodium sulphate powdered product. May 1996

Friday, July 13, 2007

Twin virtues of wrecking yard

Much has changed in the automotive landscape over the past 30 years, but a trip to the wrecker's yard can be like going back in time.

You might be greeted by a surly counterman, who will – in an offhand fashion – send you to forage for the part you want. You may still have to bring your own tools and trudge across a yard slimy with mud and a cocktail of automotive fluids. And once you've extracted a serviceable specimen of the part in question, you might see the yard owner slip the cash you hand him right into his hip pocket.

Arrive after hours and you may well get to meet his dogs.

But auto wreckers are evolving, even if there are lingering images of grimy, polluted mud-yards operating on the margins of civil society. The image in some cases remains accurate, but often ironic, too. This is an industry built upon two of the saintliest environmental virtues: reuse and recycling.

The culture and processes that result in cubes or pancakes of crushed metal being shipped to the shredders – usually with a human body inside, according to Hollywood – are only part of the auto wreckers' story. And many in the business could use a little help from the public to remake the image, especially when it comes to reusing perfectly good automotive parts.

"We're really happy to sell the parts," says David Gold, president of Standard Auto Wreckers in Scarborough. "The trouble is the public doesn't know we exist. Some of my own relatives go out and pay $400 for a new alternator, when I've got 10 of them for $75 that I can't get rid of."

Reuse can range from customers pulling a heater-control lever out of an old Civic in the U-Pull-It section, to a local repair shop purchasing a serviceable engine off the shelf to extend the life of a neighbour's beloved Nissan Axxess, to a body shop snapping up an entire front-end structure from a wreck that got rear-ended so it can repair a similar vehicle with frontal damage.

Much of the growth in parts reuse has been driven by auto insurers trying to keep premiums down.

Standard Auto Wreckers, which also has a new 4.5-hectare indoor facility in upstate New York, uses a warren of old portables for offices at its original Scarborough location.

Most of the outdoors is unpaved, but you're likely to be greeted by a friendly young woman at the reception desk. Gold himself looks like the proverbial nice young man, and if you met him outside work you might guess he's a laser eye surgeon.

But he is very much a businessman and he doesn't want to lose customers who can't find the parts they want. Things are organized at Standard; Gold has a department that sells new or reconditioned aftermarket parts. Another one does new wheels and tires. In a different area, four employees sit in front of computers. They're "attending" online auctions of salvage vehicles – wrecks that have been written off by the insurance companies.

A staffer named Ryan Pegg "wins" a late-90s Pontiac Grand Am for $600. His software program also lists the parts that Standard expects to sell – for a total of $2,750.

It all looks like easy money until Gold points out that the yard's overhead averages nearly $2,000 per vehicle.

Parts prices are elastic; inventory control software constantly monitors supply and demand and adjusts prices accordingly. Another program keeps track of interchangeability – letting a customer know, for example, whether he can use a headlamp from a 1995 Intrepid on his '97.

Buying salvage vehicles online has become nearly universal in the past few years. The practice relies on vendors providing truthful information on the cars' condition, and the industry has developed a protocol for doing that, using commonly agreed upon codes.

There's also the risk that the vehicle may acquire further damage – perhaps hit by a forklift – between purchase and delivery. "The auction houses don't really care," Gold says. "Their customers are the insurance companies."

Typically, a salvage car would be a 2001 model purchased for about $2,000. These vehicles represent about 15 per cent of the 400 autos that enter Standard's facility each week.

The other 85 per cent are mostly end-of-lifers – average model year 1990 – towed from pounds or driven in by their last owners. Some are donated through programs such as Car Heaven (the vehicle's scrap value goes to charity and the donor gets a tax receipt).

The going rate for scrap vehicles is $160 a tonne, Gold says.

A newly arrived scrapper's first appointment is with the hoist; all its fluids have to be drained. Radiators, oil pans and fuel tanks are simply cut open to let the stuff out. Four hydraulic jacks on the hoist can tip and tilt the car body to ensure every last drop gets out.

Air conditioning refrigerant is captured and disposed of according to set procedures. There's also a special recovery program for the mercury switches used in most modern cars. Standard also does the paperwork to de-register the vehicles, so the authorities know which vehicle identification numbers (VINs) no linger exist.

Nothing goes to waste. Batteries, wheels and tires are resold, if marketable. If not, they are recycled. Gasoline goes into a tank from which employees fill their own cars for free. Clean coolant is given away to customers.

Depending on marketability, remaining parts of the hulk either go straight to the crusher or spend four to six weeks in the U-Pull-It yard.

Elsewhere, in a heated shed closed to the public, Standard's employees remove saleable parts from the newer vehicles.

Every part destined for the warehouse gets a detailed, computer-generated tag. "A late-model car is just the box the parts came in," Gold says.

Increasingly, computers and online commerce mean trips to the wrecking yard are of the virtual variety.

On your home computer, you might click on
and enter the details of the part you need. The website searches members' inventories and lists recyclers that have it.

Miller's Auto Recycling in Fort Erie might be the one with the right part at the right price. You might contact the company, arrange shipping and payment on your credit card.

A few days later the part arrives at your front door – and all without going within five miles of a junkyard dog.

JEREMY SINEK - Apr 21, 2007, Toronto Star

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Tire Recycling Overview

Tire recycling is the process of recycling vehicles tires (or tyres) that are no longer suitable for use on vehicles due to wear or irreparable damage (such as punctures). These tires are among the largest and most problematic sources of waste, due to the large volume produced and their durability...

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Big 3 Auto Recycling Program To Expand Focus

USCAR announces contract with ECO2 Plastics to explore 'rinse and recycle' applications for end-of-life vehicles

The United States Council for Automotive Research's (USCAR) Vehicle Recycling Partnership (VRP), composed of researchers from DaimlerChrysler, Ford Motor Company and General Motors Corporation, recently announced an initiative to enable the recycling of all materials in shredder residue, regardless of their source.

As part of its work, the VRP recently contracted with ECO2 Plastics Inc. to evaluate its proprietary polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic recycling technology. The ECO2 technology removes substances of concern from plastics recovered from "shredder residue" -- the material left when end-of-life vehicles (ELV), household appliances and other large items are "shredded" by a large, grinding hammer-mill, or shredder, as part of their recycling process.

While the U.S. automakers have worked to eliminate substances of concern (SOCs) from general vehicle content, some SOCs can still be found in shredder residue, which contains materials from a combination of automotive and non-automotive sources, giving the program even broader potential for environmental leadership.

Currently, more than 84%, by weight of materials, of each ELV in the United States is recycled, with 95% of all vehicles going through the existing infrastructure. ECO2's proprietary recycling process addresses the plastics found in the unrecycled portion. If successful, such a system will enable recovered plastics to be more easily reused.

The USCAR VRP currently is engaged in a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory and the Plastics Division of the American Chemistry Council to address the sustainable recycling of current and future materials from ELVs. This is the third CRADA established among the participants since the inception of the VRP in 1991.

As part of the CRADA team, the VRP is collaborating with private industry and government to discover and implement innovative recycling solutions to enhance the current market-driven U.S. vehicle-recycling infrastructure.

ECO2's PET plastic recycling technology has the potential to be one of several recycling solutions for shredder residue that fits within the current U.S. recycling infrastructure.

By Brad Kenney,

Friday, June 29, 2007

Scrapyards fight bad rap, enjoy boom

When most people think of automobile scrapyards, they envision piles of dirty, junked cars, the grime of oil and engine fuels, and the risk of environmental damage that comes with car crushing.

Such assumptions are misguided, said Larry Brown, vice president of Jerry Brown's Auto Parts Center in Queensbury.

Brown insists the industry, which has experienced a significant boom in recent years, provides services that benefit the community on several levels, including the environment.

The obvious benefits of the industry are an alternative for the cost of new car parts and the removal of junk cars.

"We're the competition for dealerships and an alternative for expensive new parts," Brown said. "When we get a car, we inventory what's reusable: mirrors, glass, engines, tires, doors, batteries -- almost everything. Often, it's a savings of 50 percent of the cost of a new part for our customers."

When Brown's company doesn't have a specific part, Brown said the online network of salvage yards allows him access to more than 2,000 shops' inventories in the United States and Canada.

"I'll know within seconds when and where I can get a part, if I don't already have it here," he said.

Jerry DeLuca, executive director of the Automotive Recyclers Association of New York, said there are 743 automobile dismantlers in New York "providing a place for end-of-life cars to go."

In 1997, more than 4.7 million cars were recycled nationwide, according to the association.

"We take one to two junk cars a day from people who live nearby. Those are cars that would just sit there otherwise," Cornell said.

Brown said his company recycles around 1,500 vehicles per year, in addition to the 2,000 kept on site.

Additional benefits that result from the industry are reduced insurance premiums and reduced costs of metal.

Brown said the vast majority of his junk cars are purchased through insurance auctions, which allows the insurance companies to recover costs and therefore offer more competitive premiums. Cornell said he purchases 10 to 15 cars per week at the auctions.

The discount price of used parts also allows insurance companies to repair insured vehicles for less, which translates into lower premiums, Brown said.

"Ninety percent of my business is wholesale (to companies like insurance firms)," he said.

The recycling of scrap metal means a reduction in the cost of materials needed for construction or for building new cars and ultimately results in reduced need for natural resources.

DeLuca said the demand for steel has reached an all time high worldwide.

"Automobile recyclers supply steel and many other metals that are recycled and used in construction," DeLuca said. "Even copper piping is cheaper because of what's recovered from old cars."

"There isn't much metal that's not in high demand," Brown added.

And that demand is what has driven the boom in the scrapyard industry.

Brown said that, in 1995, his company was receiving about $18 per ton of crushed cars, whereas in February, he received $165 per ton.

And it's the industry boom that Brown partially blames for the industry's bad reputation as an environmental hazard.

"Crushed cars are the by-product of my business," Brown said. "We recycle what we can and crush what we can't. That metal (that we can't recycle) will be recycled elsewhere.

"A lot of people are trying to get into the industry because of the boom and are primarily out for higher weights in crushing. In order make money, you have to turn cars over quickly."

That inexperience, combined with the need for quantity, can lead to sloppiness, Brown said. And that can lead to spills and contamination.

Maureen Wren, spokeswoman with the State Department of Environmental Conservation, said salvage yards are regulated by the DEC, and the biggest risk is groundwater contamination due to petroleum spills.

The DEC requires that all fluids are properly drained to ensure spills don't occur. The industry is also heavily regulated by the state Department of Motor Vehicles, DeLuca said.

Cornell agrees with Brown that the industry has a lot of companies that cut corners to make an extra buck.

"They give us a bad rap," Cornell said. "I live next door to my shop. I drink the water. I have to care about it."

"It's not hard to do this job safely, but you have to care

about the environment," Brown said. "You have to have good housekeeping and organization."

Brown and Cornell said their companies have never had a major spill, despite both being in the second generation of ownership.

Brown, Cornell and DeLuca insist that, when done correctly, the industry actually helps the environment.

The Automotive Recyclers Association reports that 11 million gallons of oil and 6 million tires were recycled nationwide in 1997, in addition to enough steel to produce almost 13 million new vehicles.

"We save energy by reusing parts that would otherwise need to be made brand-new," Brown said. "And even the brand-new parts often have recycled components in them, through the metal that's crushed and sorted."

By Melissa Guay

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Ahead of the recycling curve

The name of SGI's car recycling centre creates an image of a dusty junkyard filled with piles of rusting, crushed vehicles guarded by a mangy dog and squirrely old man wielding a shotgun.

It isn't the case. SGI's Salvage Centres are state of the art, processing more than 16,000 cars per year in Saskatchewan. The Regina location handles more than 5,500 cars per year.

Officials invited guests to tour the facility Tuesday to see how it works and what SGI is doing to protect the environment. Over the past six decades, it has recycled more than seven million pounds of steel, 95,000 litres of oil and other fluids, 1,400 pounds of freon gas and 300 grams of mercury.

The income from the resale of salvaged and recycled goods was $5.6 million last year. The money raised goes back into the auto fund, keeping insurance rates low, according to officials."We were recycling mercury switches for six or seven years and 10 to 15 years for freon before it was made mandatory. We try to stay ahead of the legislation," said Al Ripplinger, the branch manager for the Regina salvage centre.

When cars are written off in accidents by SGI, they are taken to the salvage yard at 460 Fleet St., in the northeast area of Regina.

Vehicles are assessed before a small army of mechanics and technicians tears them apart. Oil is drained from motors and freon is sucked out of the coolant systems. If oil isn't recycled properly it could contaminate the soil, and it's illegal to allow the free venting of freon.

The salvage yard itself is massive. The parts storage room resembles a weapons locker. Row upon row of salvaged parts hang from hooks, tagged, sorted and registered in a province-wide parts computer database.

The garage is filled with the whine of power drills and electrical saws. Car doors are stacked in rows, with windows still inside them.

Drains in the floors are designed with a two-part filtration system to prevent any spilled fluids from getting into the sewer system. The floors look clean, the concrete is gray and not stained black with oil.

"Everything is kept very neat and clean because of environmental regulations. You can't have a big mess," said Ripplinger.
SGI also uses special containers for shipping parts to prevent fluids from spilling during transport. In the past, engine cores used to be loaded into the back of an open truck. A trail of oil would be left behind as it drove away, according to Ripplinger.
"I can't believe how much contamination there must have been in the soil," he said.

The big goal is recycling to save the environment but Ripplinger has seen some amazing sights come through his shop. He said one of the most memorable was a photo of car that hit a moose. The moose's head was on the trunk and the hind legs were on the hood of the car.

"The passengers walked away from that one," said Ripplinger. "The moose was huge. I have no idea where (the passengers) would have fit after that."

Matthew Barton, The Regina Leader-Post. Published: Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Groups fine tune grading guide for recycled parts

The Automotive Service Association (ASA) Salvage Subcommittee was formed to work closely with other organizations, such as the Automotive Recyclers Association (ARA) and the United Recyclers Group (URG), to strengthen the lines of communication and improve the process of using recycled parts. With that in mind efforts are being made to fine tune a grading system for recycled components.The ARA started its Parts Grading Guide so that all individuals involved in the repair process would have a consistent and uniformed guide for grading recycled parts. With different Internet search sites becoming popular and so many of those sites using different grading systems, ASA felt it was in the collision industry's best interest to be a part of the Guide and endorse one easy-to-use, uniform standard.

"The ARA Parts Guide is a tremendous tool for the estimator, the insurer, the counterman at the yard and the parts manager in the shop to be on the same page for describing recycled parts," says ASA Crash Parts Subcommittee Chairman Ron Nagy.

Recently, the ASA Salvage Subcommittee decided to broaden its scope and is now called the ASA Crash Parts Subcommittee, which is composed of ASA collision members interested in crash parts issues, be they recycled, aftermarket or OEM surplus.

In the past, the Crash Parts Subcommittee worked behind the scenes to improve the industry. For example, under committee Chair Harry Moppert, they were able to work with CCC to add the drop-down menus for LKQ parts.

"Through the use of the Guide, the collision repair industry has the ability to uniformly know the condition of the part being priced and know upfront of any damage or cleanup time needed," says Nagy, of Nagy's Collision Center, Doylestown, Ohio.

The ARA Parts Grading and Description Guidelines are intended to improve communication between automotive recyclers and their collision repairer, mechanical repairer and insurer customers. Many customers cannot decipher the codes used to describe the conditions and options of a recycled part. As a result, the part sale goes to another vendor or the recycled part is returned because it did not meet the customer's expectations.

This document brings standardized part descriptions and terminology to the parts inventory process. It identifies common parts and terms used to describe part conditions and part options. By standardizing part descriptions, the recycling industry can more easily set customers expectations and increase sales of recycled parts to companies in the repair process.

According to ARA Electronics Committee and E-Commerce Committee Chair David Gold, who's also the owner of Standard Auto Wreckers in Scarborough, Ontario, Canada, the Electronics Committee is responsible for establishing the ARA Parts Grading System and Damage Codes, and the E-Commerce Committee is consistently analyzing additional ways of standardizing the parts grading process.

Gold says recycled OEM parts currently occupy 10 percent of the marketplace. The issue of clarity when it comes to the exact condition of the part, while important for a customer coming into a facility to pick up a part, is absolutely crucial for someone buying a part online to know exactly what they are putting their money down on.

"Because we are dealing with a used product, we do need to be very diligent in how we grade our parts, because they aren't going to be perfect. But if we describe them effectively that's pretty much all we can ask for." says Gold. "Kind of like the eBay philosophy, you've got to highlight all the negatives so that there are no surprises on delivery and that's kind of our whole mantra with parts grading."

The ARA has developed its own language, which is accessible to everyone, including insurers, collision repairers, auto mechanics and the general public. For example, an "A" grade body part has one credit card sized unit of damage or less, a "B" grade part has two units of damage or less, while a "C" grade part has more than two units of damage and an "X" grade part does not contain enough data for the information provider to grade the part.The ARA parts grading system is not limited to body parts either: an "A" grade mechanical part has 60,000 total miles on it, or if over 60,000 miles it can not exceed 15,000 miles per model year of age. A "B" grade mechanical part has between 60,000-200,000 total miles on it and has exceeded 15,000 miles per model year of age, while a "C" grade mechanical part is any part that has more than 200,001 total miles on it, no matter the age.

"The industry is trying to put some teeth behind it to really ensure auto recyclers use it," says Gold. "There are insurance companies out there who will not want to see recycled parts if they are not graded."

Complete details on the parts grading system can be found at the ARA Web site,

The main thing the ASA subcommittee is after is a uniform grading system, so that no matter where you called and no matter who does the calling (repairer, insurer, counterman or parts manager), the grading system is the same. In a business where time is limited and clear communication among the various parties is essential, having one parts grading guide is key to success, according to Nagy.

The subcommittee approved the ARA system just before the end of 2006, and will be endorsing it through different means over the next few months.

"As the ARA Parts Grading Guide is adopted by recyclers, repairers and insurers, it will give everyone a common language for describing recycled parts and lessen the current chaos involved with describing the condition of recycled parts," says Nagy.

By: Troy Sympson, Automotive Body Repair News

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Auto wreckers become recyclers

KW Record - Jan 10, 2007

Opinion & Editorial

To some people, auto-salvage companies are operators of unsightly junk yards, but they should more appropriately be regarded as pioneers of the recycling movement.

An auto-salvage company, at its best, is an environmentally friendly business that is performing a vital service. There simply isn't space in dumps -- now known as landfill sites -- to take old cars. And, even if there were room, cars are filled with too many pollutants to allow them to leach into the ground.

The importance of the salvage industry was noted late last year when Rona Ambrose appeared at Logel's Auto Parts in Kitchener to announce a federal initiative to ensure that toxic mercury switches are removed from cars before they are recycled. Ambrose was the environment minister when she announced the program. The switches activate convenience lights in hoods and trunks. Logel's has been removing them since it learned of the concern, about six years ago.

As a story in The Record on Monday pointed out, the auto-salvaging business is not well regulated. Neither Ottawa, Queen's Park nor local governments have clear rules governing the industry. None of these governments have given even licensed salvage companies standards on how auto parts and fluids should be recycled.

There are also some regional bylaws, but the recycling of automobiles is clearly more complex than a region can properly regulate, despite the goodwill of individual inspectors.

Steve Fletcher, executive director of the Ontario Automotive Recyclers Association, said the federal initiative on mercury switches represents a good start, but he added that other environmental hazards associated with recycling cars require attention. "There are just as many problems with the whole vehicle as there are with that tiny mercury switch," he said.

How refreshing to have an industry prepared to accept government assistance in setting standards in a field that is clearly in the public interest.

John Logel Sr., owner of Logel's, has pointed out that there are 25 licensed salvage yards in Waterloo Region, but others operate without a licence. The unlicensed ones are interested in salvaging metals, but they don't necessarily have the experience or inclination to recycle parts safely.

This is a field in which the federal and provincial governments should work together along with reputable organizations, such as the Ontario Automotive Recyclers Association, to set standards for the entire industry. With environmental concerns becoming of greater public interest as each month goes by, there is no reason to delay.

Salvage yards in chaos - Canada lacks the strict standards of other nations for auto recyclers

KW Record - 1/8/07

Tasmin McMahon

Canada is lagging behind the rest of the world when it comes to regulating salvage yards, the head of the Ontario Automotive Recyclers Association says.

"We've been trying to get them to (regulate)," Steve Fletcher said. "Let's get into the modern age and understand that cars can be good and cars can be bad if they're not handled properly."

In Ontario, there is no provincial auto recycling licence, mainly because rules governing different aspects of auto recycling are spread out among 13 government ministries, Fletcher said.

Nationally, Canada lags behind Europe and Japan, which have well-developed standards for how to recycle and dispose of car parts and fluid, kind of like blue boxes for auto recyclers.

Fletcher's association has an inspection program for new members. But it represents only 150 of as many as 1,000 companies in Ontario that have identified auto recycling as part of their business.

Some municipalities, like the Region of Waterloo, have progressive licensing systems to keep track of auto recyclers, but most don't, he said.

"You end up with a pretty huge disparity in how cars are treated."

The province needs to adopt a common set of standards to create a level playing field across Ontario, Fletcher said.

Most salvage yards do their best to operate safely, but more regulation is needed for unscrupulous businesses, said Gord Miller, Ontario's environmental commissioner.

"It's the kind of system where the industry might be wise to come up with some kind of self-regulation if they want to reassure the governments that they're doing everything right before there's a push from the province to do more," he said.

Such a system is expected to come into force in British Columbia early next year. The legislation requires salvage yards to be certified before they can apply for a business licence. The program was developed by the auto recyclers arm of the Automotive Retailers Association. It was adopted six years ago by the City of Abbotsford before the provincial government signed on this year.

The association hired environmental consultants to develop an environmental checklist for salvage yards, and businesses pay $500 a year to be inspected. Those who run a clean business, get fewer inspections and pay less the next year.

About half the association's 99 auto recycling members have voluntarily signed on to the program.

"We wanted to create our own regulations, our own code of practice before the government made us do it," said David Scarrotts, head of the association's auto recyclers arm.

Ontario's auto-recyclers association is hoping the success of the B.C. regulation will spur the Ontario government to adopt similar regulations.

Politicians are racing to label themselves as green as the environment becomes higher priority for voters, and this bodes well for those wanting greater regulation, Fletcher said. But he doesn't think the province will go as far as creating a provincial licence for auto recyclers.

"I would be shocked if the provincial government would put a licence in place, as much as I know it's the best way to go, and what we've been fighting for," he said. "But the political reality of what's on their agenda is that we're just not that high up."

Auto-parts recyclers push for regulation

KW Record - 1/8/07

Tasmin McMahon

Johnny Logel bristles when people call his family business a junkyard. Logel is set to take over an auto salvage yard on Bridge Street East in Kitchener next year, the third generation of his family to run Logel's Auto Parts.

The business dismantles and recycles about 1,000 old and wrecked vehicles a year, draining as much as 8,000 litres of potentially toxic fluids such as gasoline, motor oil, antifreeze and mercury.

Cars are dismantled in an enclosed workshop. Reusable parts are sorted, inventoried and stored in a warehouse and resold. The company pays licensed haulers to get rid of antifreeze, tires and batteries, which are often recycled. Oil and transmission fluid is filtered into a clean-burning furnace and used to heat the warehouse and shop. Gasoline is suctioned out of cars and used to fuel delivery vehicles, and Logel's sells freon to repair shops to be reused in car air conditioners

The days when rusting hulks sat in yards leaking fuel into the ground are gone, Logel said.

"The word junkyard is like a swear word around here."

Logel's and other legitimate scrapyards have been trying to clean up the image of their industry and are pushing the provincial government to crack down on environmentally unscrupulous auto wreckers.

Recently, Logel's yard was used as a benchmark for a new federal program to cut down on hazards from recycling cars. The program requires wreckers to remove mercury switches before vehicles are crushed. A gram of mercury is enough to pollute a 20-acre lake.

But as the high price of scrap metal entices more businesses into scrapping used cars, Ontario auto recyclers are complaining their industry is poorly regulated.

Lax and inconsistent licensing policies across the province leave it up to companies like the Logel's to voluntarily ensure their businesses don't pollute the environment.

Regulating mercury switches is a good start, said Steve Fletcher, executive director of the Ontario Automotive Recyclers Association, but governments need to take a broader look at the environmental hazards of recycling cars.

"They are officially putting a lot of time and effort into something that's as big as the tip of your baby finger," he said of a mercury switch. "There are just as many problems with the whole vehicle as there are with that tiny mercury switch."

There are 25 licensed salvage yards in the region, but there are others who operate without a licence, dabbling in the industry mainly to salvage metals with little regard for how to safely recycle parts, said Logel's owner John Logel Sr.

One of the problems is that there are no requirements for who can buy scrapped cars, known as end-of-life vehicles, Logel Sr. said.

Even for those that are licensed, there are no set standards for how parts and fluids should be recycled, and inspectors have little power to actively enforce existing rules.

The Ministry of the Environment has issued five orders against salvage yards in the region since 2002 for a range of violations.

The violations range from not properly storing potentially hazardous vehicle fluids, to burning waste, contaminating soil and releasing chemicals into the air.

The ministry issued two cleanup orders against to J.M.W. Automotive on Margaret Avenue in Kitchener after a neighbour complained in 2002 that the business had contaminated her yard with oil. In 2004, a wall at the wrecking yard collapsed metres from where children play.

Across the province, the environmental commissioner's office has received three requests for investigations into salvage yards, including complaints that cars are crushed before fluids are drained, and that scrapyards are over-filling municipal landfills with "auto fluff," the foam taken from seats and dashboards that are ground up to salvage the metal.

The Region of Waterloo requires scrapyards to get an environmental assessment before applying for a new licence. But there is no such requirements for existing yards.

Regional bylaw officers inspect licensed salvage yards at least twice a year, mainly to enforce a bylaw requirement, said Marty Sawdon, administrator of Licensing and Regulatory Services.

Bylaw officers have some power to enforce environmental issues contained in the bylaw, such as ensuring car batteries are stored off the ground and facing upward. If inspectors suspect there are environmental problems, they can report them to the Ministry of the Environment.

They also investigate complaints, but Sawdon said most public complaints relate to noise violations and scrap metal that is piled too high.

The region tried to deal with environmental concerns when it rewrote its salvage yard bylaw last year. A November 2005, regional report identified the environmental dangers of salvage yards as a "major concern" in the wake of several blazes at scrapyards, including a $400,000 fire at Logel's in 1997 that was started by blow torch.

As part of the new bylaw, the region tried asking scrapyards to produce a letter of clearance from the Ministry of the Environment or undergo an environmental assessment every five years.

But the ministry doesn't regularly inspect salvage yards and so won't issue clearance letters. The region later realized environmental assessments are so expensive they would have put some salvage yards out of business, Sawdon said.

Ultimately, the region decided to leave environmental enforcement up to the province but would suspend, revoke or refuse to issue salvage licences to yards with serious documented problems.

No scrapyards have lost their licence since the new bylaw came into force, Sawdon said

"It comes back down to the question of jurisdiction and who is responsible for this type of thing and it's our viewpoint that it resides with the ministry," said regional clerk Kris Fletcher.

The Environment Ministry inspects scrapyards if it gets a complaint and also incorporates auto wreckers into its regional inspection plan, said Dolly Goyette, the district officer for the ministry's Guelph office. She couldn't say how often salvage yards were inspected under the district plan.

The region conducts detailed tests on its water supply and hasn't found automotive chemicals in municipal wells, said manager of water resources Eric Hodgins. Metals tend to stick to the soil, rather than filter into groundwater. Petroleum-based products, like gasoline and oils, usually stay shallow, while drinking water wells are deep. "It's very unlikely we would see direct impacts," Hodgins said. "That being said, we don't have a lot of specific information on a lot of individual sites."

The province's Clean Water Act, passed in October, is expected to give municipalities greater powers to inspect businesses like salvage yards for environmental problems and take steps to protect the water supply. The legislation is in place, but the region is still waiting on four sets of regulations, expected over the next two years, that will spell out details of exactly what information the municipalities can collect.

In the meantime, the region has put salvage yards on a list of businesses with the highest risk of contaminating the environment as part of its wellhead protection planning.

It also created zoning restrictions the don't allow scrapyards to set up shop in the areas around wells, although 10 of the 25 existing scrapyards are within wellhead protection areas.

The region did run a program that gave businesses such as scrapyards up to $20,000 to invest in technologies that would prevent spills but cancelled it last year after getting an underwhelming response.

Depending on the powers in the Clean Water Act, the region may restart the program or try something new, Hodgins said.

That's disappointing news for organizations such as Clean Air Foundation, whose Car Heaven program promotes salvage yards that recycle cars in environmentally sound ways.

Cars are one of the most recyclable products in the world, said executive director Ersilia Serafini, but there is no regulatory body ensuring that recycling is done properly.

"Really no one is looking at them," she said. "They got their certificate of approval from the ministry and they can do pretty much whatever the hell they want."