Auto Recycling World (ARW) had the opportunity to speak to Adam Malyszko, Chairman of the Polish Auto Recyclers Association, FORS to find out about his background in auto recycling and where he sees the future of the industry.
Please could you provide us with an overview of your background in vehicle recycling and how you have come to be the FORS Chairman?
My experience began in the automotive industry in 1979, when I was a young boy. Before the age of 18, I started working as a car electrician in a bus service station. I continued my studies part-time. A year later I was working in an authorised car service centre. In those days, we mainly served Socialist Bloc makes which included: Trabant, Wartburg, Zastawa (Yugo), Lada and Fiat/127/128/132. In addition to electrical repairs, I specialised in the replacement of car bodies.
I started my own business in 1983 but my adventure with car recycling began in 1995. Before this, car recycling was virtually non-existent in Poland. In 1996 I started to meet people interested in car recycling. They were people representing the world of science and technology, car manufacturers and representatives of government administration. There was also a large group of entrepreneurs like myself. In 1998, this group established the FORS Association. In the beginning, the association I dealt mainly with legal aspects.
On the 18th September 2000, the Ambit company, of which I am the owner, commissioned the first dismantling station which met all the conditions of Directive 2000/53/EC. And in 2002, I was elected the vice president of FORS. It was a period of very hard work: As a candidate to the EU, Poland had to implement the Directive. I was very much involved in this process – with hundreds of meetings with people on different levels. We were finally successful and on 20th January 2005, an act was adopted to regulate vehicle disassembly activities. In the same year, the FORS members decided that after two terms of office, the president should be a person not from the world of science, as had been customary so far, but a practitioner. My candidacy was presented. I agreed and as a result of a vote I was elected President of the Association. I have performed this function on social grounds for over 15 years.
Can you explain to our readers your role and how FORS benefits auto recyclers in Poland? Also, could you mention some of the achievements that FORS has made over the years?
An extremely important and fundamental role is to unite the industry environment, sharing knowledge and experience and helping to solve a variety of problems. Over the years, hundreds of people have visited my dismantling station to see the technical and organisational solutions applied, and thousands of people have received help in the form of concrete advice. The first little achievement of FORS came in 1998 with the introduction of the obligation to hand over a vehicle to an authorised company before its deregistration. The second one was in 2005 with the introduction of a system of subsidies for disassembly (approx. EUR 120 per vehicle).
Over a period of 10 years, EUR 250 million have been received by the leading dismantling stations. Those who have taken advantage of this support today run great dismantling stations and are market leaders. The funds came from the recycling fee collected when placing a vehicle on the Polish market. Unfortunately, because the recycling fee was not paid by manufacturers and importers of new cars, the system was incompatible with EU law and Poland had to change it.
In 2015, the Association lost the fight against manufacturers who convinced the Polish government to decide their own solutions. Since 2017, dismantling stations have not received any subsidies. However, they must face penalties for not achieving the recovery and recycling levels set out in the Directive. Despite many reservations about the system, the treatment of the subsidy as “de minimis” aid, the unauthorised use of subsidies and excessive bureaucracy, it has been possible to reduce the level of the grey market from 90% to 40%. It was a very big success.
Conferences, training, seminars and team-building meetings organised by FORS also proved to be a great success. There were over 100 of them, including four major international conferences from 2016 to 2019. The FORS Association also organised a number of study tours, both domestic and foreign. It was made possible by a great deal of commitment from many people I’ve worked with over the years and I’ve been friends with, and I’m very grateful to them for that.
FORS seems to have a healthy relationship with its government organisations. How has this been managed and does harmony bring advantages to vehicle recyclers in Poland?
You’re right, it seems like this but relationships are not as good as they might look. Although we are well recognised, we try to be everywhere and sometimes prevent bad solutions, but it is very difficult to introduce these good and reasonable proposals. Let me give you an example: In 2015, together with the Ministry of Environment, we prepared a project of economic incentives addressed to the last owner. It was a proposal for a surcharge of about EUR 100 for the person transferring the vehicle to the dismantling station. The project was submitted to the Council of Ministers, unfortunately, under pressure from unknown forces, it was removed. We even convinced the manufacturers of the system, or so we thought.
I would like to believe that it is in our common interest with the government to fight against the grey market, which has now returned to a level of 70% following the withdrawal of subsidies to dismantling stations. Unfortunately, the government does not listen to good advice and has recently adopted very bad solutions. Most such solutions appeared in 2018. What seems good to the government but in practice, is very harmful to entrepreneurs. We do not give up, and we hope that our persistence will lead to a reversal of the situation so that honest entrepreneurs are more respected. It is worth remembering that when making up for losses after the pandemic, the government can only count on honest entrepreneurs – the grey market does not pay taxes.
This year, although mooted due to the COVID pandemic, you launched vehicle recycling day on 18th September, can you give your reasons for creating this day and what is your vision for its future?
Vehicle recyclers need such a day. Although it may seem like just a symbol, such an initiative is important for building and promoting interest in the industry. We should all be concerned, among other things, about promoting the reuse of spare parts, handing overused vehicles for dismantling, showing this activity in a way that is dignified and illustrates its true meaning and beneficial impact on the environment and the economy, and not as in Hollywood films, where car wrecks are always a background for crime.
This symbolic date will also become a perfect pretext for important discussions with the government about the problems of the industry and for social meetings where recyclers can share their successes and problems. Open days for school children, students and the media can be organised on this day. No one needs to be especially convinced that a lot can be achieved through good contact with young people and the media.
Respected as you are and connected throughout the world, what are the issues that you see are affecting auto recyclers globally?
Dynamically developing car production technology is undoubtedly a global challenge. Currently, a large number of computer-controlled robots are used to produce cars, which, when properly programmed, can produce “customised” cars. Parts from these cars will therefore not fit into the same makes and models that seem almost identical on the face of it and in documents.
There are already problems with the reuse of parts that have electronic protection. We can all see how many makes, models, types of vehicles there are on the market, not to mention the possibility of customising the order.
The second problem is the increasingly expensive human labour and the related need for continuous education and development. It’s becoming more and more difficult to get skilled workers. In Japan, for example, there have been trials with robots programmed to dismantle tyres, but this is a very distant perspective. Increasing costs and more expensive human labour can make these used parts unattractive in terms of price, in view of the change of the manufacturers’ pricing policy and new parts’ prices, not to mention environmental costs, if we allow this kind of thinking in terms of “one-time-use”.
Another important problem for those who specialise in the recovery of raw materials is the decreasing content of valuable raw materials in vehicles, which is becoming less and less, including in catalytic converters which are more often dismantled before the vehicle is handed over for dismantling. Catalogues with catalytic converter price lists are available on-line, so, of course, there are specialised groups that obtain catalytic converters in various ways outside the legal business, and they are also often stolen.
Similarly, what positives have you seen and what encourages you as we advance into the future?
The youth is the future. Where there is a successor, there is success. Sometimes young people take shortcuts and don’t listen to the advice of those more experienced, then it may end badly.
I see a lot of new opportunities in hybrid, electric, and hydrogen cars – a lot of interesting experiences await us in the near future. Modern cars are damaged in various ways and are already dismantled. The world is beginning to pay increasing attention to environmental protection. There are a lot of components in cars that need to be recycled. However, everything must be done to ensure that recycling and recovery of raw materials are an opportunity, not a threat to the industry.
Recently you were at the forefront of sending a letter to the WTO on behalf of auto recyclers. Why did you do this, and what do you hope to achieve from this?
I don’t expect much effect from sending a letter to the WTO. The most important thing is that we managed to send it together, through the efforts of many organisations – that was my main goal. As you know, it wasn’t easy. If the world’s entire recycling industry starts to work together and fight for good solutions together, the chance of achieving them will increase. Governments often ask what good solutions are implemented in other countries, and we should always be ready to respond.
We have to be sure that what we propose is supported by all car recyclers in the world. A WTO petition is an example of a form of cooperation on topics and recommendations with which we all agree. How national organisations use the petition depends entirely on them.
This year, the ARA presented FORS with the Affiliate Chapter Special Recognition Award One of the reasons for being presented with this award was the formation of a group of world association members in order to share information amongst each other. Why did you promote this and what advantages do you think comes from such a group working together?
As I mentioned earlier, FORS organised four International Conferences. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, back in March, we resigned from the next 5th edition of the conference, which was to take place on the 18th September 2020. During these conferences, as well as during trips abroad, we met many wonderful people from all over the world. In view of the various limitations and difficulties that we have all experienced with the occurrence of COVID-19, I wanted to keep in touch with them, but at the same time, I wanted to know what challenges they face, how they feel, and what action they are taking in this new situation that has surprised us all.
Of course, I was very worried about the first meeting on the web. I was wondering whether such a formula of an international conference has a chance to work, but it did work. I owe a lot to my friend Łukasz, who agreed to be the moderator of these meetings.
I hope the pandemic period will end next year and we will return to traditional meetings. I am also convinced that we will continue to use modern communication methods. I have such a feeling that these unique meetings, taking place in several time zones, in five continents, will be remembered with great sentiment. Will they become an inseparable part of our calendars? I don’t know that yet. However, I feel that apart from the flow of information during these meetings, an extremely friendly and kind atmosphere has also been created. I think we’ll want to continue these meetings even after the pandemic is over.