JANUARY 2009

URG to quantify benefits of auto recycling with Colorado University

Automotive recycling has been a ‘green’ industry from the start, long before that color became fashionable. Building a strong case for the affordability, high quality and environmentally friendly automobile recycling industry is needed to build an awareness and marketing campaign that can take all this to the next level. Realizing this, United Recyclers Group (URG) has announced the release of a request for proposal (RFP) from the University of Colorado to quantify the environmental benefits of automotive recycling.

“Automotive recycling is green by the very nature of what occurs when car parts are reused by the repair and collision industries,” says Michelle Alexander, URG executive director. “But we haven’t promoted this fact to the public, and we think that by doing so it will increase demand for more recycled parts. We need more information that will help us quantify the environmental benefits and sustainability of automotive recycling, especially as it compares to the production of new parts.” With this information, she adds, URG managers will be taking a look at just how much more green the industry can become in the future.

Longtime automotive recycling industry consultant Al Lacy is heading up this effort for URG. He says that the project really has three main aspects to it. “First, we want to estimate the environmental benefits of automotive recycling based on the present industry size and operating practices. Second, we want to estimate the additional benefits of recycling more parts from each vehicle recycled. And finally, we need to learn more about potential markets for ‘carbon offsets’ or ‘carbon credits’ that might benefit insurers or recyclers.”

Lacy says that to accomplish this, the RFP requests a study of the nationwide automotive recycling industry including its size and scope. Also sought are the resources saved from the reuse of parts and the recycling of steel and other scrap in vehicle bodies, the environmental benefits from the proper disposal of auto-related fluids, air conditioning coolant, and other waste. Financial benefits that need to be quantified are the direct savings that result for customers from using recycled rather than new parts, and insurance premium savings that result from the use of recycled parts in collision repair.

“As far as we know, nobody has ever done a comprehensive study of the beneficial effects of automotive recycling,” says URG manager John Fischl, president of Riteway Auto Parts located in Phoenix, Arizona. “We want to know what resources (raw materials, energy, labor, etc.) are saved by not having to build more new parts. We also want to compare the ‘carbon footprints’ of some typical new and recycled auto parts.”

“Younger consumers today have clearly expressed their preference for green products of all types,” says Greg Wilcox, a URG manager and owner of Midway Auto Parts, located in Kansas City, Missouri. “Look at the demand now for hybrid and electric cars. It makes sense that environmentally conscious consumers will increasingly request repair and collision facilities to use green parts — especially when they are rewarded for making this earth-friendly choice with lower insurance premiums. This industry is in the right place at the right time, and more education and training for our employees will help us capitalize on the opportunities we have to reposition ourselves.”

The study will quantify the benefits from increasing the parts and materials recycled from each vehicle, says Al Lacy. He says this includes savings in labor energy and the reduction of harmful environmental effects of mining and manufacturing; reduced material in landfills; the reduced carbon footprint of auto repairs; additional direct savings to customers from using more recycled auto parts, including a reduction in auto insurance premiums.