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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Doing the right thing for your old car

September 24, 2010 by Mark Richardson, Wheels Editor

Another World Car Free Day came and went this past Wednesday, and once again, in Toronto barely anybody noticed. Well, except the angry motorists forced to detour around an empty area near Queen’s Park, sparcely populated by a poorly-managed event.

Once again, we’re reminded that this is not Europe, where they know how to make their point properly and constructively about the need to relieve congested cities.

A much better organized event took place at the same time at Metro Hall, where a mobile crusher was set up by the Retire Your Ride organization. Four older cars were brought in to die very public deaths in front of a small cluster of lunch-breaking office workers, who were fascinated by the flattening destruction of it all, present company included.

The cars were squished in order to publicize the final six months of the program, which offers incentives to owners of older cars to get them off the road, but which ends March 31. The organizers don’t hate cars — far from it. They just hate old cars that spew far more pollutants than they have to. According to their stats, cars that are at least 15 years old belch out an average of 19 times the noxious emissions of cars built since 2004.

Retire Your Ride is a federal government program that will pay you $300 in cash for your 1995-or-older car if you agree to take it to a wrecker’s yard that adheres to a recognized code of responsible environmental recycling. You can also get discounts off things like bicycles and electric bicycles and transit passes, and some manufacturers — GM, Ford, Chrysler and Hyundai — will give generous discounts off new replacement cars.

The program was roundly criticized last year for its meagre incentive. After all, what was $300 compared to the thousands of dollars being offered in other countries, such as Britain, the U.S. and Germany? Where was the real incentive?

Asked about this, Steve Fletcher shakes his head. He’s managing director of the Automotive Recyclers of Canada and he’s just come from an international industry conference in Quebec. According to him, the participants “universally condemned those programs as a boondoggle. In the United States, they paid thousands of dollars each for 690,000 cars, without asking where they would go once they were off the road.

“It was just a stimulus package for the economy to sell more cars. Those governments went into it hot and heavy and it was all over before anybody could even think about it. It’s apples to oranges to compare them with the Canadian program.”

Here in Canada, it seems we’re much more sensible. Retire Your Ride wasn’t about getting the auto industry restarted, and apparently one of every five people who cashed in their clunkers did not replace them. Instead, it wanted to establish a sustainable model that would encourage environmentally responsible recycling.

According to spokesperson Carla Kearns, the program has pulled 96,000 cars off Canadian roads since its inception in February, 2009, which is well within its target of 50,000 a year. Of course, many — probably most — of those cars would have been junked anyway, but the whole point was to ensure that they died a responsible death, properly recycled by qualified wreckers. You don’t need a licence in this country to operate a yard and rip cars to pieces, selling the metal for whatever you can get, but if you want the government to send old vehicles your way, you need to pass and adhere to a code of responsible recycling.

For example, you can’t resell the inefficient old engine. You need to remove the mercury motion switches from the hoods and trunks of cars, instead of leaving the toxic blobs of metal to leach into the landfill with the rest of the vehicle’s plastics and foam and glass. And you need to drain all the old oils and coolant and gas — the average discarded vehicle has about 40 litres of fluid in it, of which up to 95 per cent can be removed.

But this takes extra time, which costs money and cuts into profit. Most wrecked cars are worth a little under $200 in metal alone, says Fletcher, while another $200-to-$300 can be found by reselling things like wheels and catalytic converters.

Margins like that make it tough to have a conscience. Fletcher says it’s not a level playing field between the 350 Canadian recyclers who adhere to the code and the 1,500 or so who haven’t signed on.

“If our members can afford to pay $100 per car because that fits their higher costs structure, and the guy down the street has no such concerns (for the environment) and can pay two or three times that, who are you going to sell your old car to?” he asks.

“The only incentive is for you to understand what is the right thing to do. Without support from government, or from auto makers, we’re fighting a losing economic battle.”

That’s what Retire Your Ride has been trying to correct, and attempting to do in a comparatively inexpensive, sustainable way. But it’s all over in six months and the hope is that those automakers who have signed on to its principles will keep its message going. Maybe others, too. There are still an estimated 2.5 million cars on Canadian roads that are at least 15 years old.

For the sake of all those toxic chemicals leaching into our landfills, let’s hope so. After all, it’s an intelligent and constructive idea, and far more realistic than just trying to bully us into going car free.

For more information, call 1-877-773-1996, or go to

Mark Richardson is the editor of Wheels.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Help save planet, one clunker at a time

Recycling: Retire Your Ride program has proven to be an effective way to get rid of old vehicles and make some money at the same time.

We all know that driving a gas-guzzling, smog-belching car is bad for the environment.

But have you ever stopped to wonder how much damage that old clunker can do when it gets packed off to the wreckers?

Consider this: Most vehicles built before 2003 contain a neat little gadget called a “mercury switch” that controls the light in the trunk. On average, each of those switches contains .85 grams of mercury.

And how toxic is mercury?

According to Ontario Automotive Recyclers Association executive director Steve Fletcher, it takes just one gram of mercury to contaminate a 20-hectare lake — and render its fish inedible — for an entire year.

“We’ve pulled about 100,000 of those mercury switches out of vehicles since the program began,” Fletcher says.

The program Fletcher is referring to is called Retire Your Ride. Started in 2009 and set to end March 31, the federally-funded program has safely recycled about 120,000 vehicles from across Canada.

By offering cash incentives to consumers ($300 cash or up to $490 off the price of a new vehicle), and by working with accredited recyclers, the program aims to save the planet one car at a time.

“We’ve prevented the release of thousands of tonnes of smog-forming emissions . . . so we’ve been making a big impact on air quality,” says program director Rebecca Spring. “And by making sure the vehicles are responsibly recycled, we’ve been able to prevent the release of (toxic) liquids, fluids, oils, anti-freeze and mercury from entering into the environment.”

To qualify for the program, a vehicle must have been made in 1995 or earlier, and been on the road and insured for the past six months.

During a demonstration of the recycling process at Corey Auto Wreckers on Gore Rd., some surprising facts emerge. For example, a recent study conducted by BC AirCare tested 133 1995 model year or older vehicles and found that, on average, these older vehicles were 39 times more polluting than vehicles manufactured since 2004.

And here’s another eye-opener: More than 80% of an entire vehicle by weight can be reused, remanufactured or recycled.

Of course, not all auto wreckers dispose of their old cars conscientiously. But inventory manager Dan Edgar points out that every vehicle is responsibly recycled at Corey Auto Wreckers. Indeed, the program resulted in two new jobs at the east-end yard.

At Corey Auto Wreckers, all the fuel, antifreeze and washer fluid is reused in the company’s own vehicles. And while 30 or 40 years ago automobile oil was regularly spread onto gravel roads to keep dust down, today the oil is collected and often re-refined into a synthetic blend, or used to fuel kilns and boilers.

So far, more than 920 vehicles have been responsibly recycled through the Retire Your Ride program in the London area.

If you want to do the right thing with your old clunker, you can learn more details at

Ian Gillespie, London Free Press

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Fate of Your Vehicle

How to ensure your old clunker doesn’t become an environmental hazard.

It’s probably not something you’ve ever thought about, but where you take your vehicle when it reaches the end of the road can make the difference between an environmental disaster and a model of environmental responsibility.

The truth is, not everybody handles end-of-life vehicles (ELV) and vehicles that have been in accidents the way they should. Steve Fletcher, Executive Director of the Ontario Automotive recyclers Association (OARA), has heard some of the horror stories.

With many automotive recyclers, trying to extract the most value from an ELV by cutting environmental corners is unfortunately a growing practise. “Our members, however, follow a very strict code of practice in the way they handle a vehicle. They spend a lot of money to build and maintain facilities that are specially designed to capture and store potentially harmful operating fluids and other toxins such as mercury and lead. We keep all of that stuff contained and prevent it from contaminating the soil and groundwater. The technicians who do the work are trained to follow a methodical process that maximizes the amount of material that can be reclaimed and minimizes the environmental impact,” says Fletcher.

The problem, Fletcher explains, is that not everybody follows the same protocol or plays by the same rules.

“We know of some scrap operations who buy cars just to crush them and sell them for the value of the metal. They don’t drain anything and they don’t do anything to protect the environment. And when metal prices are high like they are now, those guys really come out of the woodwork.”

Fletcher says their members remove an average of 40 litres of potentially hazard-ous fluids from each vehicle, as well as lead, mercury and ozone-depleting gases. “All the oil, gas and other operating fluids pose a significant risk to the environment if they’re allowed to just leach into the soil. Our members carefully drain all the fluids and store them for reuse or recycling.”

Fletcher adds that gas tanks, batteries and tires are all removed and recycled, reused or disposed of appropriately. The vehicle is then sent for dismantling where usable parts are removed for resale.

“By the time our members crush a car, it is a clean, dry hulk that poses no threat to the environment. Only then is the unusable portion of the vehicle sent to be shredded for metal recovery,” says Fletcher.

Incredibly, there is currently no legislation that dictates how an ELV has to be handled, although the OARA is working with the provincial government to set environmental standards for the processing of ELVs. the OARA is also working with environmental groups and a number of leading auto manufacturers who have recognized the need to ensure ELVs are properly processed at the end of their operating lives.

“When people are done with their vehicles, they really need to be aware of who they’re selling it to. It can make all the difference in the world,” says Fletcher.

Auto recyclers donate $25,000 to Anchor Association summer camp

Call it a win-win-win situation.

Getting an old beater off the road can not only generate some income for the owner, but also benefit the environment and help out charities across Canada.

This year over $1-million was raised through the Retire Your Ride initiative, a partnership between the federal government and Summerhill Impact and supported in this province by the Ontario Automotive Recyclers Association (OARA).

“This is a record year. The awareness is finally picking up,” said Bob Vanleeuwen, owner of Fergus Auto Recyclers and a director with the OARA.

The Retire Your Ride Program is committed to improving air quality by responsibly recycling at least 50,000 vehicles per year, particularly 1995 models or older vehicles, which can produce 19 times more smog-forming pollutants than 2004 and newer models.

In addition to purchasing the vehicles and disposing of and recycling them using strict environmental guidelines, OARA members also donate $20, which is then dispersed to various non-profit organizations.

“It’s been very successful in benefitting local charities,” Vanleeuwen said.

On Dec. 23, on behalf of the OARA, he was on hand at “The Lighthouse” home just outside of Fergus to donate $25,000 to the Anchor Association, also known as The Canadian Reformed Association for the Handicapped.

The funds will help send 44 individuals with developmental disabilities, of all ages and from all across Ontario, to a two-week summer camp in Markdale.

“I’ve been there ever since it started,” Anchor resident Dave VanVeen said of the summer camp, which started in 1980. VanVeen enjoys the camaraderie of the camp and all the activities offered there.

“Almost anything,” he replied when asked what camp participants can do.

Fellow Anchor resident Terence Berends agreed. He said he really likes the camp experience, especially the singing and “sleeping in cabins.”

In accepting the OARA cheque from Vanleeuwen, Anchor’s executive director, Bert VanGoolen, said, “This is just great - thank you very much.”

In addition to the summer camp, Anchor offers respite care and operates four permanent homes in Burlington, Beamsville, Dunnville and Fergus - which support over 20 adults. The first home, in Beamsville, was opened in 1986, and the fourth, in Fergus, opened in May 2008.

The goal, VanGoolen said, is to provide 24-hour long-term care, as well as part-time jobs, to individuals with varying degrees of disability.

“They get out and become part of the community,” he said.

Vanleeuwen, whose business employs a couple of Anchor residents, had only positive things to say about the program.

He stressed the $25,000 donation to Anchor all started with individuals properly disposing of their vehicles at one of about 120 OARA certified locations.

Other auto wreckers may pay a bit more, but at the detriment of the environment, he said.

Since over half of all vehicles are not responsibly recycled - including safe disposal of gas, oil, fluids, batteries, refrigerants and mercury switches - the goal of OARA members is to raise awareness of proper procedures and to lobby the federal government to require all vehicle disposal businesses to be accredited by Environment Canada.

For more information visit,, or

by Chris Daponte

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Aftermarket Grass-Roots Trade Associations Kick Off Major Proposal For “Recycle Your Tools” Initiative

Too often young people find that the costs of tools restricts them from entering apprenticeship and doing the work they love - working on cars.

Recognizing the need to address that issue, the Ontario Automotive Recyclers Association (OARA), has provided initial funding for a “Recycle Your Tools” initiative that will help in proposal writing and research of this unique program.

The goal is to remove barriers from becoming a worker or apprentice in the motive power trades.

The program, recommended by the Hamilton District Autobody Repair Association (HARA) and the Automotive Aftermarket Retailers of Ontario (AARO), will involve a charitable tax receipt that is issued for hand tools donated by retiring techs, closing dealerships or shops.

When fully operational, students enrolled in Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program (OYAP) or Specialist High Skills Major (SHSM) courses will catalogue, inventory and web place the tools and make them available at no charge or reduced costs to students entering apprenticeship or workplace environments. There are plans to provide tools to employers to be offered as retention bonuses, where apprentices could keep their employer-donated tools if they stayed at the repair facility for a specified time frame.

This planned initiative answers an industry need identified in the latest CARS Council sectoral report and should help increase the number of young people and apprentices entering the automotive repair and automotive recycling industries.

OARA is providing the funding to the Industry Education Council of Hamilton through the Retire Your Ride vehicle retirement program. Members donate a portion of the proceeds from each vehicle to charity with total charitable donations exceeding $1 million dollars in the final two years of that program.

This initiative from the three largest grass-roots automotive trade associations follows on the heels of five workshops offered in southern Ontario by the three groups and highlights a growing positive relationship within the grass-roots organizations toward better co-operation to help industry and better serve the public.

Monday, January 03, 2011

OARA Charitable Donations Surpass Million Dollar Mark

The Ontario Automotive Recyclers Association (OARA) is proud to announce its members have given more than $1,000,000 in donations in the past 18 months.

With a $25,000 donation presented by AADCO Auto Parts to the William Osler Health Care Foundation in Brampton, Ont., OARA's total contributions sits at $1,057,989.

"I know it's been a tough few years for charitable organizations in Ontario with the economic slowdown," says AADCO president and OARA board member Don Fraser, "So, I'm really proud to be with an organization where the members, province-wide, have given so much to so many worthy causes."
The donations are being made as part of OARA's "Celebration of Auto Recycling" campaign.

Association members are giving $35 for every vehicle they acquire through the Retire Your Ride vehicle recycling program - an initiative of the federal government, Summerhill Impact and its partners.

"It really has been a win-win relationship," says OARA's executive director Steve Fletcher, "On one hand our association has been part of this wonderful program aimed at getting 50,000 high-polluting vehicles off the road by March 31st, 2011. And, on the other hand, money from that program has gone to help organizations like the Sick Kids Foundation, the Canadian Cancer Society, Autism Ontario, and the Sunshine Foundation of Canada just to name a few."

OARA's donation campaign is continuing for another few months. The association is challenging its members to raise another $400,000 before it's over.