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Who consumes all those end of life vehicles?

Have you ever wondered who consumes all the end-of-life vehicles (ELV’s) in this province? If you have, you are not alone. About 1 million new automobiles are produced in the World each week, and in Ontario approximately 500,000 of them are put to rest each year.

An End-Of-Life Vehicle is one which has reached the end of the road by way of its age or collision write-off. The outcome is almost always the recycling of the vehicle for is scrap value however the processes used to achieve this differs widely. While some processes give ELV’s a respectable burial (utilizing proper equipment and care for its fluid removal) other processes do not. The issue of ELV’s is obviously an important one and Governments around the World are taking pro-active measures as they address the key issue of the environment. Much of the focus has been directed at the automakers to make their vehicles more recyclable. The ELV directive adopted last year requires all European Auto Makers to recycle or reuse 85% by weight of the metals and materials in each vehicle by 2006 and 95% by 2015. Significant progress is being made with the automakers but regardless of their efforts it does not solve the problem of what to do with the millions of vehicles that will eventually reach the end of the road.

At the Recycling Council of Ontario Roles and Responsibilities Forum, April 28, 1999 five distinct groups of businesses were identified that deal in the management of ELVs and irreparable vehicles.

Auto Dismantlers/Recyclers:
whose primary business is the sale of used auto parts. Material recovery is secondary. Fluid recovery is an integral part of processing each vehicle.

Salvage Yards:
whose primary business is metals recovery. The sale of used auto parts is secondary. Fluids are recovered if parts are to be removed. Scrap Metal Dealers/ Junk Yards: whose only business is metals recovery. Fluids generally are not recovered.

Car Dealers, Body Shops, Tow-Trucks:
This category includes backyard mechanics, and also auto thieves and organized international and domestic auto theft rings. Of the five distinct groups of businesses involved in the management of ELV’s only the Auto Dismantler/Recycler ensures fluid recovery as an integral part of the processing of each vehicle.

There has been some very interesting “shifts” that have taken place with the ELV. In years past it was safe to say that most vehicles were purchased by Auto Dismantlers/Recyclers for processing and then the to the scrap processors to carry on the recycling process. Today, this is not necessarily the case. Salvage yards and Scrap Metal Dealers do not incorporate the same processes as Auto Dismantlers to ensure that proper fluid evacuation and disposal of these fluids takes place.

The underground economy, which acquires vehicles from the public or at salvage auctions (where anyone with any business license can attend) also has a detrimental effect on the community in that parts are bought and sold for cash. The Government realizes no revenue from these transactions.

This fact, coupled with the realization that many salvage vehicles are being exported out of the country accounts for the reduction of available used parts for the public.

The benefits of recycling the ELV and the potential re-use of its parts is the only way to save our precious natural resources. It’s incredibly heartwarming to hear that 50% of parts bought in a Country like South Africa are used OEM parts. Wouldn’t it be nice if our country could top 10% and possibly 20% in the near future?

As for who consumes the ELV’s? There is no public agency keeping accurate records of vehicle disposal in this province. This may help explain why pro environmental fluid evacuation procedures have not been fully developed. You can’t fix what you don’t know is broken.

Hopefully, government agencies will get their act together and join the UCDA, OADA, Hamilton Auto Body Repair Association and the RCO to support the Ontario Auto Recyclers Association (OARA) initiatives of accreditation and licensing for our industry. OARA is here to help in the solution.

What does this mean to you? How can you help? Next time you are ready to scrap your vehicle, ensure that it goes to an accredited recycler, one that has the necessary equipment and facilities to properly handle that ELV responsibly.

By David Gold, Standard Auto Wreckers