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Parts of the solution: Auto recyclers give green pitch

Reselling parts helps environment by saving energy, group says.

Auto recyclers have the parts to help both the environment and the economy, says Derek Covey, owner of Covey’s Auto Recyclers Ltd. in Blandford.

“The most recycled product is the automobile,” said the president of the Automotive Recyclers Association of Atlantic Canada in a Thursday interview.

The regional association, which has 13 Nova Scotia members, met with its national counterpart, the 420-member Automotive Recyclers of Canada, in Halifax today and yesterday.

The two-day gathering showcased the federally funded Retire Your Ride program and the auto recycling industry’s role in the initiative, which offers $300 cash incentives to owners who take their higher emission, pre-1996 vehicles off the road.

“Our membership is a strong supporter,” said Mr. Covey, who noted that auto recyclers help protect and preserve the environment in a number of ways.

Recycling and reselling auto parts saves enormous amounts of energy required to manufacture new parts, he said. Recyclers also remove and reclaim metals, plastics, oils, fluids, batteries and other hazardous materials, including mercury switches found in automobile convenience lights, from junked vehicles.

“One mercury switch can contaminate a large lake,” Mr. Covey noted.

Auto recyclers contribute to the economy through the employment the industry creates, the money it spends on operations, the taxes it pays and the savings it provides to consumers and insurance companies.

“The majority of our members are small- and medium-sized businesses,” said Mr. Covey, who employs 12 people. “Some employ 25 to 30.”

Steve Fletcher, executive director of the regional and national automotive recyclers associations, said the Canadian auto recycling industry is worth about $800 million annually.

“It’s evolving from mom and pop operations to more professional networks,” that process old vehicles properly and provide usable parts to consumers at considerable saving compared to new parts, he said.

Mr. Fletcher said the auto recycling industry has seen a 10- to 15-per cent increase on the auto part sales side of the business during the economic downturn.

“People are holding on to their cars,” he said, adding that while scrap metal prices are down, they remain within historically accepted price ranges.

Lisa Tait, program director for Retire Your Ride, which is managed by the Clean Air Foundation, said auto recyclers have been essential to the success of the environmental initiative, which has recycled 7,500 vehicles since its inception in February.

“We couldn’t do it without them,” she said, noting that recyclers pick up the vehicles and ensure that all hazardous materials are removed before they are crushed.

• Utilizing recycled parts saves an estimated 80 billion barrels oil annually.
• The amount of toxic oils and fluids safely reclaimed by auto recyclers is the equivalent of eight Exxon Valdez spills annually.

• More than 75 per cent of an entire vehicle, by weight, is re-used, re-manufactured or recycled.

• Using recycled parts in collision repair substantially reduces insurance costs.

• Vehicles manufactured before 1996 emit 19 times more air polluting emissions than 2004 or newer vehicles.

• Many vehicles manufactured before 2003 have switches that each contain nearly one gram of mercury. A single gram of mercury can pollute an eight-hectare lake to the point where fish are inedible for a year.

By BRUCE ERSKINE Business Reporter