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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