You already know how to help the environment when you're done with
the newspaper, right? Just drop it in the recycling bin, and off it goes for
future use. But have you ever thought about things that are too big to fit
in the recycling container? What about cars, trucks and motorcycles?
Automotive recyclers take run-down vehicles and reuse their parts
Hazardous and recyclable fluids, like antifreeze and oil, are properly
drained and recycled. In a full-service facility, the vehicle is then taken
apart. Undamaged parts are cleaned, tested, inventoried and stored in a warehouse
In a self-service business, the vehicle is stored. Customers buy what they
want from it. They remove parts themselves or with the help of a staff member.
That's also good news for people looking for auto parts. Automotive recyclers
sell quality parts to wholesale and retail customers for up to 50 percent
less than similar new parts.
Ginny Whelan is the chief executive officer of her own recycling business.
She says the automotive recycling industry began after the Second World War.
A shortage of automotive parts created a need.
"Since then, we have actually been the pioneers of recycling," says Whelan.
"Our industry has been very successful in adapting to the needs of the marketplace."
Whelan started out in education as a teacher. But a family connection brought
her into the automotive recycling business.
"I took the business over from my father. I have a degree in education,
and coming to this industry, I faced a lot of obstacles because there are
not a lot of women in the industry at the level of ownership.
"In the early 1980s, the business was shifting to computerization, and
that helped to level the playing field between men and women," she adds. Computer
skills, customer service and sales skills became as important as knowing what
goes on under the hood of a car.
Whelan now owns several franchises in the U.S. and Canada.
"A franchised operation provides one standard of warranties, quality assurance
and employees who all receive the same benefits and work for the same company,
even though they are in many different locations," says Whelan.
She encourages students and other people who are considering this as a
career path to visit their local recycler. Talk to them about what they do,
and see the facilities.
"There are so many career opportunities in this field, depending on what
you are interested in. We have marketing specialists, accountants, salespeople,
environmental consultants [and] a technical support team, all of whom are
equally important to the success of the business," she says.
Herb Lieberman and Phil Sheppard also encourage people to learn more about
their industry. Both are members of the Automotive Recyclers Association.
Lieberman has been the president for the last year. Sheppard will take over
as president next year.
Lieberman and Sheppard agree that the public doesn't seem to understand
what automotive recycling is all about. That could be because of the history
of this field.
"Historically, [our businesses] were junkyards with oil and grease running
out from under the fence. That has changed drastically in the last 25 years,"
"Basically, someone held a mirror up to our industry, and we realized that
we needed to make a change. Now you can visit businesses that are beautifully
landscaped with clean washrooms and computers everywhere."
Sheppard owns and operates a self-serve automotive recycling business.
"This is a great industry to get involved in. There is job security and
good wages, with the opportunity for a really good income. We offer our employees
all the extras, like a health and retirement plan and profit sharing," says
Many people get involved in this type of business through a family connection.
It's a good way to learn the ropes.
The automotive recycling industry has adapted to many changes over the
years. Vehicles change from year to year. That means new and different parts
all the time.
Manufacturers are seeing the importance of recycling and may become more
involved in the operations as well. This may mean increased competition. Also,
environmental regulations are constantly changing.
Starting a business in this area involves quite a bit of money up front.
Whelan estimates that it would cost $250,000 at the beginning to buy computers,
inventory and the necessary tools to take vehicles apart.
Sheppard says that starting an automotive recycling business takes a good
investment, a lot of time and strong business, people, computer and organizational
Many automotive recyclers are staying open for longer hours. Depending
on the employment laws in your area, this could be a great opportunity for
a part-time job.
Whelan and Sheppard suggest you take courses in business, entrepreneurship,
technology and technical classes to prepare for the field.
Automotive Recyclers Association
Represents the industry
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