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Reduce, Reuse, Recycle…Your Car

A new Saskatchewan association pushes for safe automobile recycling.

Saskatchewan was the last province to have a recycling association. It was time to step up and head in the right direction.
After you have finished the last glass of milk, you rinse out the milk jug or carton and then put it in the recycling bin. After opening your Christmas present, you break the box apart and, once again, put it in the recycling bin. Every two weeks, you drag your big blue box out to the curb, where it is picked up and brought to a recycling facility. There, the workers can change waste materials into new products to prevent the disposal of potentially useful materials, reduce the consumption of fresh raw materials, and reduce energy usage and air pollution.

“We’re working at making it mandatory for all members of the auto recycling industry to get certification.”

By now it has all become routine for you, but there may be one item that often gets forgotten about—a vehicle.

When your vehicle has reached the end of its life, bringing it to the proper people will ensure it passes on to “car heaven” without leaving a negative mark on the environment. A new association in Saskatchewan is raising awareness on the issue of automobile recycling and trying to ensure that salvage companies are following the proper protocols.

“All vehicles are going to get recycled, but it would be nice to see them getting recycled in a proper environmental way. That’s our biggest concern,” said Saskatchewan Automotive Recyclers Association (SARA) president Jack Smith, owner of Top Line Salvage in Moose Jaw.

“There’s not enough awareness for the public. There’s already a lot done on the recycling end, but a lot of people don’t understand what happens to a vehicle when it reaches the end of its life.”

The association formed in 2011, thanks to the combined efforts of Saskatchewan Government Insurance (SGI) Salvage and Saskatchewan’s independent auto recycling industry. In 2012, the association elected its first Board of Directors: Smith, Alan Fontaine, owner and manager of Vic’s Automotive in Swift Current (vice-chairperson), and Cheryl Hoimyr of SGI Salvage (secretary/treasurer).

“Saskatchewan was the last province to have a recycling association. It was time to step up, get organized, and head in the right direction,” said Smith. “SGI has always been really behind us.”

SARA is a member of Automotive Recyclers of Canada (ARC), which Smith said has also been a huge supporter. Over the last few years, ARC “has developed and implemented the Canadian Automotive Recyclers Environmental Code to help standardize the process for recycling end-of-life vehicles and protect our water, air, and soil from the harmful materials contained therein.”

As Smith explained, these guidelines were a motivation for creating SARA. Members pay $300 and agree to get their yard audited and brought up to par. They have to go through the certification process, which ensures that those members of the association are following the proper practises.

Recycling a car is, after all, an important and complicated process. By recycling antifreeze, switching out mercury, removing and safely disposing oil, and recovering Freon, facilities are preventing water contamination and helping to prevent ozone-depleting substances from entering the atmosphere.

“The members of our association are not a junkyard; we’re recycling yards. We recycle instead of salvaging for scrap,” said Smith. “If you bring it to one of us, your vehicle is going to be recycled in a proper way, which is great for the environment.

“A junkyard can be a garbage dump. There are some good people out there, too, but that’s the chance you take. There are lots of auto wreckers out there who don’t follow the proper guidelines. It costs the rest of us a lot of money to do that.”

Smith added that one of their big goals is to push for “a level playing field” for all members of the industry. After all, he explains, the benefits go beyond saving the environment.

A plastic milk jug that you recycle can be shredded into flakes, which can be used to create fibres for the textile industry, used in the filling for sleeping bags and duvets, as loft insulation and even in fleeces, hats, and business suits.

“A lot of people don’t understand what happens to a vehicle when it reaches the end of its life.”

Similarly, a recycled car can provide parts for new vehicles. Known as green parts, they range from doors to fenders to engines, Smith said green parts are much cheaper and are great for the environment. Furthermore, the parts meet the factory standards and are 100 percent safe.

Auto recycling businesses like Top Line Salvage sell these green parts to the public.

“Good green recycled parts go back into keeping some other automobiles on the road,” said Smith. “If someone needs a part, it’s likely we’ll have it.”

Generating public awareness is also important for SARA. The recycling industry has already done a great job of spreading the three R’s—“Reduce, Reuse, Recycle”—but Smith feels more work can be done to promote the importance of bringing your car to a proper recycling facility once it has reached the end of its life.

The association has relied on paid advertisement to spread its message. SARA puts some money toward scholarships at Saskatchewan Polytechnic and also makes donations to various organizations.

The process of ensuring automobiles are being recycled properly is one that will take patience, said Smith.

“Nothing changes overnight,” he said. “We’ve got some issues, but it’s nothing that can’t be ironed out. We’re working at making it mandatory for all members of the auto recycling industry to get certification. All you have to do is follow the rules.”

To recycle your car, visit any member of SARA. They include the following: Amigos Auto Wrecking Ltd. (Clavet), Top Line Salvage (Moose Jaw), Dale & Lisa’s Farm & Auto (Mossbank), Redwing Auto Recyclers (Prince Albert), All Parts Automotive (Regina), SGI Salvage (Regina), Affiliated Auto Wrecking (Saskatoon), Vic’s Automotive (Swift Current), Jensen’s Auto Salvage (Webb), and Southside Auto Wreckers (Weyburn).

To learn more about the importance of recycling automobiles properly, visit autorecyclers.ca.

This article originally appeared in the Spring 2015 issue of Collision Quarterly.