News, Updates and Information

Environmental Stewards – Auto Recyclers

Automotive recycling serves a vital role in preserving natural resources and reducing the demand for scarce landfill space. In addition to conserving natural resources, automotive recycling plays an important role in reducing air and water pollution and solid waste generation.

Automotive recyclers must abide by stringent local and national regulations on dealing with waste generated by salvaged automobiles. Many individual automotive recycling companies also have instituted their own unique programs to further reduce the potential effects of harmful materials to their businesses, employees and the environment.

The Automotive Recyclers Association (ARA), Fairfax, Va., has represented the business and environmental interests of the auto recycling industry since 1943. ARA encourages aggressive environmental management programs to assist member facilities in maintaining proper management techniques for fluid and solid waste materials generated from the disposal of motor vehicles. These programs include ARA’s Certified Automotive Recycler (CAR) program, which certifies that participating automotive recycling facilities meet specified general business, environmental, safety, licensing and regulatory standards. ARA’s Gold Seal program is available only to those ARA members who have completed CAR certification. The Gold Seal program is intended to ensure excellence in customer satisfaction through improved customer service, quality parts with accurate descriptions, reliable on-time deliveries and written product warranties.

Given the magnitude of the recycling process and the amount of recyclable items, ARA often partners with like-minded entities to address specific issues. One such partnership resulted in the National Vehicle Mercury Switch Removal Program, which is designed to remove mercury convenience light switches from scrap vehicles before the vehicles are flattened, shredded and melted to make new steel.

Under this voluntary program, auto recyclers agree to remove, collect and manage the mercury switches from scrapped vehicles. According to data collected from the ELVS Mercury Switch Recovery Program, since 2006, 49 states have recovered a total of 2.3 million switches and nearly 5,000 pounds of mercury. Although this national voluntary program is expected to end this summer, national switch collection will run through 2017.

ARA also has partnered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to develop the Environmental Compliance for Automotive Recyclers (ECAR) Center, a Web site at that promotes environmental compliance education, guidance and a cooperative use of resources throughout the automotive recycling industrial sector. It is designed to be a “one-stop shop” for all automotive dismantling and recycling operations.

The ECAR Tour portion of the Web site is designed to be a user-friendly, interactive tool that allows users to quickly access the environmental requirements that apply to more than 20 specific auto recycling issues for each individual state. Fact sheets are available on air bag cartridges, antifreeze, aqueous cleaning, lead-acid batteries, brake fluid, floor drains, gasoline and diesel fuel, hazardous wastes, mercury, used oil, oil filters, refrigerants (CFCs), septic tanks and disposal wells, shop towels, solvent cleaning, storm water, used and scrap tires, transmission fluid, vehicle crusher, wastewater and window cleaner.

Professional automotive recyclers use ECAR to find answers to questions such as:
• How do I know what an environmental inspector looks for at my facility?
• How can I better follow the rules so as not to jeopardize my business?
• If changes are necessary, can I actually save money by incorporating some of these modifications?

Visitors to ECAR also will find:
• Updates on relevant regulatory developments for the industry;
• Compliance tools and training;
• A place to ask compliance questions and get answers;
• Databases on technologies and techniques used in the industry;
• Links to other assistance providers, vendors and suppliers; and
• State resource locators for a wide range of topics to help find important state-specific environmental compliance information.

In the future, automotive recyclers will need to keep current on new requirements for recycling/disposing of the traditional auto fluids and parts as well as learn new methods to recycle alternative automobile fuels and new car body materials.

By Betsy Beckwith,