Steve Fletcher, Managing Director of the Automotive Recyclers of Canada (ARC), explains what their association is doing to highlight auto recyclers’ professionalism so that they are acknowledged as an integral part of the automotive economy supply chain by the public and policymakers.
Auto recyclers are very near the end of the overall automotive economy supply chain. After a vehicle has been designed, built, sold, driven, repaired, re-used – almost all vehicles end up being recycled for their material recovery. Those that don’t are probably in museums, with collectors or still on the road.
As one of the last stakeholders in that chain of ownership, and an industry still comprised mainly of independent, family-run, small and medium-sized businesses, auto recyclers often times have the smallest voice in the process – the last to be consulted, and often times the most misunderstood by the motoring public and government policymakers.
No one ever asks an auto recycler how to build a better vehicle that can actually be recycled – even though the Circular Economy pushes for this. The public still thinks a “junkyard” is a “wrecker” is a “scrapyard” is a “recycler.” Many believe their end-of-life vehicle is junk or scrap or waste.
This mindset makes it difficult to engage with the public and policymakers to bring about positive change in the industry and to allow auto recyclers to be at the table when key decisions are being made.
The Automotive Recyclers of Canada has been trying to change all that.
One of our first key steps was making adherence to the Canadian Auto Recyclers Environmental Code (CAREC) mandatory for all Members. Developed for Environment Canada and the National Vehicle Scrappage Program, CAREC has become the core defining document and process that separates ARC Members from the junkyards that are still out there.
We then strategically increased our communication on all fronts to show what our Members did every day with every vehicle. We helped launch an annual glossy magazine (now in its 14th year); introduced the Green Recycled Parts branding program (Good for the Earth, Good for your Wallet, Good for your Vehicle); undertook a variety of advertising and direct mail campaigns, and developed common websites for many of our Member associations.
We held open houses, industry forums, and presentations wherever and whenever some group wanted to know more – including many, many meetings with politicians at all levels. We kept the Retire Your Ride and Car Heaven vehicle scrappage programs alive to interact directly with the public to remove their older vehicles responsibly.
We dramatically increased our social media presence through Twitter, Facebook, and Blogging, not only for the association and industry but also to provide resources to Members so they became the media stars in their own community. All of the strategies, tactics and resources were openly shared with Members so they could include in their toolkit to promote their business and industry.
Working with other industry stakeholders was also key – insurers, repairers, automakers, dealers, environmental groups, auto clubs – all provided input into our challenges and opportunities, and we are a much stronger industry because of this outreach.
Auto recyclers are still a small part of the auto economy, and we still struggle to be heard. But as the Pandemic has clearly pointed out – we are essential.
By cleaning up our operations first and then letting the world know that auto recyclers are a valued part of society, we have made progress. But there is always so much more to do.