JUNE 2009

Environment harmed by careless disposal of car parts

Over the past month, environmentalists have been strongly expressing their disappointment regarding the “Cash for Clunkers” compromise legislation announced by Democrat lawmakers and President Barack Obama. In prominent media outlets such as the NewYorkTimes.com, they warn that the $4 billion taxpayer-funded compromise provides little in oil savings or cuts to global warming pollution. Those who care about the environment should also be alarmed that the proposal paints a bull’s eye on the vehicle recycling industry.

Regrettably, the current Congressional “Cash for Clunkers” proposal seeks to restrict the recycling of two major replacement parts – the engine and transmission – harvested from vehicles turned in for end-of-life processing under the program. The reuse of recycled engine and transmission parts – and not having to produce a new replacement part – provides a huge benefit to the environment, the equivalent of what it takes to produce 50 million gallons of gasoline or the electrical usage of over 61,000 homes for a year. Not to mention, the manufacturing of a new car requires energy which in turn leads to greenhouse gas emissions like CO². It is estimated that when one drives a new car out of the showroom that car has already effectively emitted from 3 to 12 tons of CO².

American consumers and automobile repair businesses purchase these quality recycled vehicle components every day to keep their vehicles running. These businesses and consumers rely on parts from recycled vehicles because of their substantial savings in reduced repair costs and lower insurance premiums, savings from the purchase of a replacement vehicle, and also for the strong environmental benefits. In fact, these two parts alone typically account for some 50 to 60 percent of a professional automotive recycler’s sales – overall automotive recycling is a $22 billion industry in the United States. Thus, Congress should understand the demand for such repair options, and consider the implications of restricting them.

“One would think that Congress would have learned a lesson from the recent home mortgage mess,” says Automotive Recyclers Association’s executive vice president Michael E. Wilson. “Pushing consumers into vehicles that they cannot afford is not good for anyone – most of all the American taxpayer.” Wilson added, “The recovery, reuse, and resale of these quality recycled parts must remain readily available to the consumer, who may not want or be able to financially retire their vehicle, and will require access to parts from these vehicles for their future repairs.”