About the only thing that wrecked automobiles and trees used to have in common came about when the moving one smashed into the stationary one.
But, as Wellington Halton Hills MP Michael Chong pointed out on Aug. 28 at Fergus Auto Recyclers Inc., the days of old junkyards and those wrecks are long gone.
“This is a great industry to be in,” Chong told company owner Bob Vanleeuwen. Chong noted that was not the case “in decades past” but auto wreckers of the bad old days have been relaced with recyclers that would gladden the heart of any environmentalist.
The Fergus company on County Road 29 is a member of the Ontario Automotive Recyclers Association, and Vanleeuwen is a member of the board. The association presented Centre Wellington’s NeighbourWoods with a cheque for $10,000 Friday morning to help plant trees in industrial areas in Centre Wellington Township.
The money comes indirectly from a federal government program called Retire Your Ride, with partner the Clean Air Foundation. People with high polluting cars are paid $300 to take them off the road at an auto recycler. The recycling yards place $20 per vehicle into a fund for environmental projects, and Vanleeuwen suggested the local tree planting program be the recipient of a grant.
The Retire Your Ride program aims to get 50,000 high polluting vehicles off the road by March 31, 2001.
Vanleeuwen said, “I chose this charity because as an environmentally friendly auto recycler and a member of the [OARA], it is both my personal goal and the association’s goal to support and protect the environment in our day to day operations. Supporting this charity is a natural fit as trees are a major player in environmental clean-up. It is my hope that an awareness of responsible auto recycling, reuse of usable parts, and reducing pollution is a result of these planting programs.”
In today’s era of recycling, cars’ parts are removed from old vehicles and resold, but so are other sections of the vehicle.
Engines and transmissions can be remanufactured and lights and wheels can be reconditioned.
Plus, refrigeration gas from air conditioning systems is recovered and sometimes reused; components containing mercury, such as light switches in the hood, trunk, and ABS brakes are recovered, gas and oil is recovered and reused, tires are recycled and reused, printed electronic circuits are reused, lubricants for hydraulics, transmission fluids, motor oil, brake fluids, differential and power steering fluids are recovered, reused, or used for energy recovery.
That is not all. Components containing lead, such as wheel balancing weights, batteries, and battery connectors are recovered, melted, and reused.
Other hazardous fluids like antifreeze and windshield washer fluids are recovered and sometimes re-used.
Many ferrous metals are recovered. Since a vehicle is made typically 68% from iron and iron alloys, that metal is recovered, melted, and reused. Nonferrous and other precious metals (8% of the vehicle) are also recovered, melted, and reused.
The unusable portion of the vehicle is crushed, shredded, and reused to make new vehicles.
NeighbourWoods spokesman Toni Ellis said Vanleeuwen contacted her about the donation, and it took little to convince her. Her group is planting trees around the township wherever they are needed, and last year it started planting trees in industrial areas.
Ellis said she hopes to get some trees planted this fall, with the rest next spring. She hopes for 150 in all with the grant.
She said NeighbourWoods is partnering with Centre Wellington Chamber of Commerce to find industrial sites for trees, Little Tree Nursery will provide the trees as a partner, and she also hopes high school students will volunteer to help with the planting.
Steve Fletcher, of the OARA, said his association has 140 members, and is also affiliated with the Canadian Automobile Recycling Association.
He said the members voluntarily chose to provide $20 towards an environmental fund from each wrecked auto.
He said the idea is to make people aware of the environment, and of the association, which, he said, is “essentially in the parts business.”
But, he said, the idea is to make sure the parts do not cause pollution.
“It’s very much a budding industry,” he punned. We use these events to suggest, ‘We’re the good guys.’ ”
Fletcher said probably half of the 600,000 vehicles across the country will get recycled.
MPP Ted Arnott told the gathering that he has talked with Vanleeuwen about the industry and tree planting. Arnott saluted Vanleeuwen, and also noted Wellington County deserves credit from planting thousands of trees through its Green Legacy program.
“We should be planting trees all over the world.” Arnott concluded.
Wellington Warden and Centre Wellington Mayor Joanne Ross-Zuj told Vanleeuwen and Fletcher, “You are in leadership here.”
She added that the auto recycling story needs to be spread and promoted far and wide.
Ellis said the $10,000 check will purchase a lot of trees and mulch.