Local companies act as blue bins for unwanted autos

The valley has become a bit cleaner thanks to the efforts of the Automotive Recyclers Environmental Association (AREA), who stepped forward to offer their assistance to the Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK).

  • Jul. 26, 2011 2:00 p.m.

Trying to take parts from abandoned cars can create a mess like this one

The valley has become a bit cleaner thanks to the efforts of the Automotive Recyclers Environmental Association (AREA), who stepped forward to offer their assistance to the Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK).

Several landfills and transfer stations throughout the Columbia Valley have had unwanted vehicles improperly disposed of. Not only are these abandoned vehicles a messy sight, they also pose environmental hazards.

Members of the public also sometimes remove parts from these abandoned vehicles, releasing hazardous materials directly into the environment and creating a contaminated site.

“There are many environmental hazards in vehicles: refrigerants, mercury switches, antifreeze, oil, tires, lead-acid batteries to name the important ones,” said Colin McKean, executive director of AREA.

Recyclers are trained to process the vehicles without hazard. In return, there’s an opportunity for them to salvage the remains of the vehicle.

“It was AREA that brought the proposal to the RDEK. The RDEK has also co-operated and appreciated the help of the recyclers,” says McKean.

“And there is some benefit for the recyclers as there is a value in the recovered metals, plus there may be the occasional part that they can sell. In short, it is a ‘win’ for the environment, a ‘win’ for the RDEK and a ‘win’ for the recyclers.”

Three AREA companies have been hard at work clearing away and properly disposing of these vehicle hazards: Farbrook Auto Wrecking in Cranbrook, Out O’Town  Auto Town in Fernie and Kool Country Auto Parts in Invermere.

These recyclers all meet the Ministry of Environment requirements and are towing the unwanted vehicles to their processing facilities, where the hazardous materials are removed under strict and specific guidelines set out in the ministry’s Vehicle Dismantling and Recycling Industry Environmental Planning Regulation.

Per this regulation, companies that process five or more end-of-life vehicles must be registered with the ministry and have an Environmental Management Plan.

Kool Country Auto Parts in Invermere currently holds a silver rank for their processing plant and facilities and president (and “broom boy”) Ivan Mackey is confident that another official inspection will earn them a gold status.

When the vehicles are taken to a processing plant, all their hazardous fluids, as well as the battery and tires, must be removed before being put into the crusher. Vehicles that are not fully prepped before crushing are called “wet cars,” and can leak hazardous fluids into the plant and nearby area.

“The thing is, people just drop the vehicles off in the landfills, which you’re not supposed to do,” said Mackey. “So we’re collecting them up, and putting them back into recyclable steel, and we do it properly, because there are people out there who are not certified with the ministry who do this.”

The clean-up initiative, which Mackey described as a “team effort”, has already made big improvements at the transfer stations and landfills in the area.

“The recyclers have done a great job cleaning up the sites and there is still more work to be done,” said McKean. “Once the sites are cleaned up, the recyclers will monitor the sites and remove the unwanted vehicles.”

“It’s very important to not just give a vehicle to just anybody or abandon it,” said Mackey. “Make sure they’re certified — there are pretty strict guidelines for certification. It’ll be disposed of the right way.”

For more information visit area-bc.ca. If you have an unwanted vehicle and live in the Invermere area, call Kool Country Auto Parts at 250-342-4400.

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