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Recyclers raise the bar

A national Code of Practice will establish minimum standards for auto recyclers and level the playing field in favor of environmentally-responsible operators.

Prompted by the federal government’s National Vehicle Scrappage Program announcement, the national association of automotive recyclers is developing a voluntary Code of Practice. This document will outline the minimum standards for compliance and best practices for recycling end-of-life vehicles.

Generally in the recycling sector, licensing is the purview of the municipality and there is little enforcement of municipal by-laws. What’s more, there is varying interpretation of provincial environmental regulations, all of which creates an uneven playing field for respectable businesses.

In addition, explains, Steve Fletcher of the Automotive Recyclers of Canada (ARC), “the laws are silent on some of the materials we handle like mercury switches.”

“The Code of Practice helps to bring some structure to our industry. For us, it will be a guidebook for recyclers to build their businesses around best practices,” he comments.

The impetus for the national Code of Practice is the federal government’s promise to develop a program to encourage Canadians to get their old vehicles (pre-1995) off the road. In the 2007 federal budget, a national vehicle scrappage program was announced. Six million dollars was allocated for infrastructure, and another $30 million promised for incentives to get Canadians to scrap their old vehicles. The scrappage program will likely be based on Car Heaven, a voluntary program which encourages Canadians to donate old vehicles for recycling in exchange for incentives.

To accompany the national scrappage program, Environment Canada requested that the industry develop a Code of Practice to ensure consistent practices across Canada for this initiative. The Code will also ensure vehicles are retired in an environmentally responsible manner.

The Code of Practice will establish the requirements to participate in the scrappage program.

“We will end up with a national document that allows the provincial associations to take it back to their governments as a model,” says Fletcher.

British Columbia is currently implementing regulations for its recycling industry. The new rules stipulate that a recycling facility or an association must have an environmental management plan in place by Sept. 2008. The plan describes how waste is removed, stored, treated, or disposed. Facilities must register with the governing body and must be report their compliance every 2 years.

One benefit of the British Columbia document, says Fletcher, is that it helps various government departments to understand the industry better, and it minimizes varying interpretations of laws as they apply to recycling.

It is expected that the vehicle scrappage program and the Code of Practice will create a registry of sorts, as recyclers sign up to be part of the program.

Fletcher says the industry welcomes both the scrappage program and the Code of Practice. “For the most part, our members are already doing this stuff. For those outside the association or even those within who aren’t, we’re hoping there’s a regulatory burden put on them. There’s a really un-level playing field out there right now.”

Cindy MacDonald, April Bodyshop Magazine