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Thursday, January 12, 2012

Strict Environmental Code is the New Gold Standard for the Auto Recyclers of Canada Members

Whether by accident or through years of dutiful service, your vehicle has finally reached the end of the road. Few of us realize that deciding where to take it is a vitally important environmental decision. The truth is, not everyone handles vehicles the way they should and when that happens, the environmental impact can be disastrous. A program called The Canadian Auto Recyclers’ Environmental Code (CAREC) aims to make sure you’re dealing with one of the “good guys”.

Steve Fletcher, Managing Director of ARC, explained the evolution of the program. “This came out of Environment Canada's National Code of Practice for Automotive Recyclers, developed to support the Retire Your Ride scrappage program. It laid out some pretty stringent compliance requirements for a recycling operation to properly process a vehicle. CAREC goes beyond the structure of the original program and has become an invaluable resource for automotive recyclers in the environmentally sound management of end-of-life vehicles.”

The new program has three goals:

• To convey the legal and mandatory requirements before, during, and after the recycling process and promote best management practices within the industry;

• To promote pollution prevention and the vehicle recovery industry to reduce the ecological impact of the automotive sector; and

• To ensure that there is a consistent set of practices that are aligned with federal, provincial, and municipal regulations, as well as with product and industry stewardship programs.

For an auto recycler to be certified to the code, they must pass an independent audit which objectively measures both their facilities and the processes they use against a standardized protocol. ARC has made it a condition of membership for all of its Direct Members to maintain their certification.

So, as a vehicle owner, why should you care whether or not a recycler is certified? Fletcher explains. “Unfortunately, not everybody processes end-of-life vehicles the way ARC members do. There are some operators who buy cars just to crush them and sell them for the value of the metal. They leave toxic fluids and heavy metals to escape into the soil and groundwater. They don’t recycle usable parts and have no regard to the damage they’re doing to the environment. At face value it’s almost impossible for the average vehicle owner to figure out who the responsible recyclers are and who they should avoid at all costs. When they deal with an ARC member, they know that operator has been thoroughly checked out.”

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Auto Tech: Automobile recycling

We are all excited when a new shiny vehicle appears in our driveway, and many are interested in how cars and trucks are built and perform. It’s a different story when a vehicle is no longer roadworthy, and that old hulk is traded in, sold or hauled away. We really don’t care, as long as it disappears to somewhere, but we should: there were over twelve million new vehicles sold last year in North America. This is down from a record 17 million a few years earlier, but in the long run, these vehicles will serve their useful purpose and have to be disposed of. Unlike in the past, where old vehicles were left to sit and rust, today these vehicles still have value and that is where automobile recyclers come into play.

We used to call them wrecking yards or salvage yards. Now they are referred to as automotive recyclers, and that is an accurate description of what they do. When a vehicle enters their workplace, it is evaluated and major serviceable parts are removed from the vehicle for resale. It may be an engine, transmission or even body parts, depending on the demand of the marketplace for used parts. Think of this as the ultimate in green environmental consciousness: instead of using new materials and the cost of producing and shipping a new part, a good serviceable used part is put back on the road again.

After the good parts are used, the rest of the vehicle still has value. Bodies are crushed, shredded and sorted into different materials. Currently, over 75% of an automobile is easily recyclable, and in Europe and Japan, they are trying to regulate it so 95% can be recycled. Seventy per cent of a modern vehicle’s weight is made up of steel and cast iron, and more than 40 per cent of all new steel in North America comes from this recycled metal. Lighter metals such as aluminum, copper, zinc and magnesium make up a much smaller percentage of a vehicle’s total weight but are still a significant volume. It is much cheaper to recycle aluminum than it is to mine the ore and produce new aluminum. Not only is it environmentally sound, recycling it takes a lot less electrical energy.

Currently, about 24% of the vehicle ends up as automotive shredder residue (ASR), which includes materials such as plastics, adhesives, rubber, glass, dirt and foam. Current automotive direction is to include more plastics in vehicles to reduce weight and increase fuel economy, and auto manufacturers are helping the recycling process by marking plastic parts with the type of material they are made of so they can be sorted easier. Other parts, such as rubber, can be separated out and reused in a different form. For example, Ford is making engine gaskets out of shredded tires for several of its vehicles.

Other materials, such as glues, resins and foams may not be as easily recyclable but they can be used as fuel sources to help power recycling facilities and research is ongoing to determine how to best utilize these and other materials.

Looking at new vehicles, manufacturers are increasingly finding new ways of incorporating recycled materials into their vehicles. Bamboo, a quic- growing grass, is used by several as reinforcement in moulded underbody panels. This reduces the amount of petroleum needed to manufacture plastics. Recently, I saw how Ford’s new Focus Electric car will have seat material manufactured from recycled plastic water bottles. Not only was this a good use of a product often sent to the landfill, the seat material looked great and felt very luxurious. You would never guess it was derived from a plastic bottle!

Other Ford recycling initiatives include valve covers on the Fusion, Escape, Mustang and F150 made of 100 per cent recycled carpet. The Ecolon nylon resin made from the carpets results in a reduction of more than 430,000 gallons of oil used, not to mention the carpet that doesn’t go to the land fill. Another example is the 2012 Focus, which will have carpet and sound deadening material manufactured from used clothing.

These examples are from one manufacturer. The others are using recycled materials too, to both lower production costs and protect our environment. There is a social consciousness in the automotive industry, and recycling is one part of it.

By Jim Kerr