On August 17, the Automotive Recyclers of Canada (ARC) announced that, after many years of involvement with the association, Neil James, from Empire Abbotsford Recycled Auto & Truck Parts, is stepping down from the board of directors.
In the late 1980s, James, then president of Ralph’s Auto Supply, was impassioned with the idea of practicing better waste management procedures at his multiple locations. Back then, there was a growing environmental awareness in the states of California and Washington that resulted in many U.S. automotive recyclers facing penalties and fines. James knew it was just a matter of time before Canada followed suit, so he proactively pursued solutions.
In 1988, James got involved with the B.C. Auto Recyclers division of the Automotive Retailers Association (ARA) and become its chairperson. At that time, the province’s auto recyclers were not yet provided with any clear environmental guidance or regulatory requirements for the processing of end-of-life vehicles. New systems were being developed as auto recyclers grew increasingly concerned about substances like oil and antifreeze leakage contaminating the environment however the provincial government had yet to develop regulations that would affect meaningful change.
James eventually went on to lead the ARA and industry to a new proactive approach in the absence of government environmental regulations pertaining to auto recycling. In 1995, with assistance from Environment Canada, ICBC, the Ministry of Environment, and the Ministry of Transportation and Highways, the first environmental Code of Practice (CoP) for automotive recyclers in B.C. was created.
James then lobbied across the province to adopt the first CoP as a prerequisite to obtaining an automotive recycling licence—as legitimate auto recyclers would have no problem meeting the CoP requirements. These environmental protocols—originally employed at Ralph’s Auto Supply—have since been replicated time and time again in other Canadian provinces and are now administered on a mostly voluntary basis through the Automotive Recyclers of Canada.
When the ARC was formed in 1997, James became one of the original board members. The ARC was founded as an “association of associations,” serving as a national forum for the channelling of information and addressing concerns of automotive recyclers and dismantlers across the country. Serving as board chairperson on two different occasions, James was a regular participant, known for his strong arguments.
It was James’ initial efforts, supported by the ARA’s B.C. Automotive Recyclers and Environment Canada, that made the provincial government in British Columbia enact regulations for the auto recycling industry in 2007, after over 10 years of development. By adopting these regulations, which specifies best practices for disposal of hazardous waste, B.C. has set the standard for the rest of Canada.
Other programs to guarantee end-of-life vehicles reach their maximum recycling and safety potential while keeping the environmental burden to a minimum, have followed.