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Salvage yards in chaos – Canada lacks the strict standards of other nations for auto recyclers

KW Record – 1/8/07

Tasmin McMahon

Canada is lagging behind the rest of the world when it comes to regulating salvage yards, the head of the Ontario Automotive Recyclers Association says.

“We’ve been trying to get them to (regulate),” Steve Fletcher said. “Let’s get into the modern age and understand that cars can be good and cars can be bad if they’re not handled properly.”

In Ontario, there is no provincial auto recycling licence, mainly because rules governing different aspects of auto recycling are spread out among 13 government ministries, Fletcher said.

Nationally, Canada lags behind Europe and Japan, which have well-developed standards for how to recycle and dispose of car parts and fluid, kind of like blue boxes for auto recyclers.

Fletcher’s association has an inspection program for new members. But it represents only 150 of as many as 1,000 companies in Ontario that have identified auto recycling as part of their business.

Some municipalities, like the Region of Waterloo, have progressive licensing systems to keep track of auto recyclers, but most don’t, he said.

“You end up with a pretty huge disparity in how cars are treated.”

The province needs to adopt a common set of standards to create a level playing field across Ontario, Fletcher said.

Most salvage yards do their best to operate safely, but more regulation is needed for unscrupulous businesses, said Gord Miller, Ontario’s environmental commissioner.

“It’s the kind of system where the industry might be wise to come up with some kind of self-regulation if they want to reassure the governments that they’re doing everything right before there’s a push from the province to do more,” he said.

Such a system is expected to come into force in British Columbia early next year. The legislation requires salvage yards to be certified before they can apply for a business licence. The program was developed by the auto recyclers arm of the Automotive Retailers Association. It was adopted six years ago by the City of Abbotsford before the provincial government signed on this year.

The association hired environmental consultants to develop an environmental checklist for salvage yards, and businesses pay $500 a year to be inspected. Those who run a clean business, get fewer inspections and pay less the next year.

About half the association’s 99 auto recycling members have voluntarily signed on to the program.

“We wanted to create our own regulations, our own code of practice before the government made us do it,” said David Scarrotts, head of the association’s auto recyclers arm.

Ontario’s auto-recyclers association is hoping the success of the B.C. regulation will spur the Ontario government to adopt similar regulations.

Politicians are racing to label themselves as green as the environment becomes higher priority for voters, and this bodes well for those wanting greater regulation, Fletcher said. But he doesn’t think the province will go as far as creating a provincial licence for auto recyclers.

“I would be shocked if the provincial government would put a licence in place, as much as I know it’s the best way to go, and what we’ve been fighting for,” he said. “But the political reality of what’s on their agenda is that we’re just not that high up.”