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Saturday, January 12, 2008

Setting the Standard

Certification and standards programs will identify vehicle recyclers that consistently act in a responsible manner.

The National Scrappage Program, announced in the 2007 budget and slowly coming to fruition, offers the recycling industry an opportunity to define the practices and procedures of a professional auto recycler.

As an element of the scrappage program, Environment Canada wants a Code of Practice to ensure that recyclers participating in the program meet a certain minimum standard.

The national industry association, Automotive Recyclers of Canada, has been instrumental in developing the Code of Practice. Executive director Steve Fletcher says it has been a challenge to develop a national code because most regulation of auto parts recyclers happens at a provincial or even municipal level. As such, the Code of Practice will focus on proper stewardship of waste by-products of the auto recycling process.

The Code will likely contain stipulations for handling and disposal of items such as antifreeze, batteries, fuel, oil, and CFCs. Fletcher also believes the Code will contain suggested best practices and educational material.

"This is an opportunity for the industry to gain something tangible and structural, that will last beyond the scrappage program," he says. "The Code of Practice helps us to quantify what we do."

Too few staff, vehicles

Of more day-to-day concern to the recycling industry is the shortage of available vehicles for parts inventory, and the difficulty of finding qualified employees. "Staffing is an enormous issue out west," says Fletcher. "They can't find enough competent staff."

Access to cars from which recyclers can salvage parts is also difficult right now. "Too much of the vehicle supply is leaking out through unlicensed buyers and the underground econ- omy," he explains. "We try to get vehicles to come through the recycler stream, but...."

With the current high price of steel, recyclers are turning more toward selling scrap metal. "[Scrap] is much more of a business in our industry than it used to be. It's filling in the gap left by decreasing parts sales."

Fletcher is concerned, however, that a sustained drop in the price offered for scrap metal will cause a shakeout in the industry.

At the same time, recyclers are adapting to of selling on the internet., an online resource for finding recycled auto parts, now lists 100 million parts from 3100 recyclers in North America. About half of these body parts are graded with standard ARA part grading.

"We're thrilled that so many recyclers are now including part grading information with the inventory they upload. This will make it easier and faster for their customers to find the parts they need with accurate descriptions and clear information," says Jeff Schroder, president of

Likewise, the Code of Practice will make it easier to find a qualified recycler. However, the federal election could throw a wrench into the development of the Code by slowing down interactions between ARC and Environment Canada. Prior to the election call, the goal was to have the national scrappage program and the Code of Practice operating by Jan. 1, 2009.

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