Our World Has Changed
by Ron Fisher —
Recycled parts can reduce our carbon footprint and improve the bottom line at the same time.
Recycle! Reuse! Save the planet! Be enviro- friendly! Eat organic! GMO is bad!
Our world has changed, and our environment has changed. Global warming is real. In my youth, if we did not want something anymore, we simply took it to a vacant lot or to the dump. We thought it was “cool” how big our landfills were. Land was cheap, and we were never going to run out. Tires were routinely burned, for no better reason than as a way to get rid of them. Now they are used as part of the ground material on children’s playgrounds and in a myriad other products. We had a big burn barrel in our back lane where we would burn whatever we felt like. Our kitchen had a wood stove that belched smoke out into the sky. Thirty years ago, “disposable” was considered a great feature, and no one thought twice about throwing things away.
Now we talk about climate change. We talk about renewable resources and water shortages. We have recycling stations in public areas. Many fast food restaurants have disposal centres where customers can sort their garbage, recycling the majority of it. Most communities have blue box programs and recycling bins for green waste. Households are allowed to put out only one garbage can instead of an unlimited number of cans.
The present generation believes it has a moral duty to protect and repair the environment.
Much of this has been forced on us, but some of it has been demanded by the people. Most people I know have reduced their waste by 50 to 80 percent and look for ways of recycling as much as humanly possible. Some environmental damage from our past is now being cleaned up, and areas are being returned to their pristine natural condition.
But we still have a long way to go. An Eastern European friend who stayed with me in the summer was shocked, not only by the size of my fridge but also by the fact that I had more than one. Her apartment was the size of my kitchen and family room, and she shared it with her parents. We still drive big vehicles while in Europe they drive smaller ones. Our standards in North America are still dramatically different from those in the rest of the world. Is it sustainable?
The world as we know it is changing, and the way we do business and make purchasing decisions have also changed.
This brings us to the recycling industry and the use of recycled vehicle parts. Many years ago, the industry had “junk yards,” with vehicles leaching fluids into ditches. Now they industry has “recycling centres,” which ensure that 85 percent of a vehicle is reused. All fluids are drained and repurposed. Cars are dismantled. Tires are sold or recycled. Doors, engines, transmissions, and thousands of other parts are cleaned and made-ready for use, eliminating the need to manufacture new parts. What is left is used as scrap metal and repurposed.
There are many compelling arguments for using recycled parts.
Years ago, I worked at the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC). This was before there were replacement cost policies, and the insurer chose whether new or used parts were used in the repair. People often were not happy with the idea of installing a used part on their car. They felt they were being taken advantage of if they were given “an inferior part.” We had to explain that we would be using a part of the same vintage as the original part on their car and of insurance grade quality. As ICBC’s c.a.r. shop VALET accreditation program got going, and shops began providing quality control and lifetime warranties, customers became less hesitant. But the term “used” still brought up certain negative images and value judgements.
A recycled engine can reduce the carbon footprint by 4,000 kilograms, a recycled transmission by 3,600 kilograms, and a recycled door by 850 kilograms.
But a paradigm shift is occurring in our society. Consumers are starting to see value in reusing materials as a means of preserving our earth. The present generation believes it has a moral duty to protect and repair the environment for future generations. As a result, consumers are now demanding that businesses use green practices. They want to feel good about the goods and services they purchase. So, they support a company like Tom’s Shoes, which, for every pair of shoes it sells, gives a second pair to someone in a third world country. They are also more willing to use recycled auto parts, which would otherwise end up in a landfill.
The reality is that recycled parts can reduce the cost of repairs and in turn reduce claims costs, thus reducing the pressure to increase insurance rates. Consumers are happy, and it makes it easier for shops and insurers to achieve their targets on the bottom line.
The use of recycled parts can reduce our carbon footprint. A study by the Association of Auto Parts Recyclers showed that using a recycled engine can reduce the carbon footprint by 4,000 kilograms, a recycled transmission by 3,600 kilograms, and a recycled door by 850 kilograms. Climate Smart Business, Inc. reported that in 2014, ICBC purchased $155,519,159 in parts; 12.4 percent of these parts were recycled parts. Just think of the impact on our carbon footprint if we could increase the use of recycled parts to even 30 percent!
It is incumbent on the recycling industry to seek continuous improvement and to provide the public with quality pre-owned original equipment manufacturer parts at competitive prices. As the vehicle repair industry demonstrates that recycled parts are of high quality, backed by sufficient warranties, consumers will recognize more and more that recycled parts should be the first choice whenever available. As we improve our inventory management, we will be able to send more unsaleable parts to the crusher as scrap and provide more insurance grade parts to consumers, thus reducing the carbon footprint of our industry.
In addition to being the director of operations for Quality Recycled Parts BC (qrpbc.com), Ron Fisher is the owner of Fisher Resolution (fisherresolution.com), a company specializing in mediation and workplace conflict issues. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared in the Spring 2017 issue of Collision Quarterly.