CARS Program Leads to Recycle Backup

The government CARS voucher program has resulted in a mountain of work for recycling facilities around the nation. Thousands of used cars that were traded in as clunkers must be drained of fluids, stripped of reusable parts and crushed for scrap.

Harry Haluptzok, chief executive of John’s Auto Parts in Blaine, Minnesota, says he has almost 4,000 vehicles ready for recycling. He’s hired ten extra workers due to a workload that is more than double the company’s 100 per week norm.

According to the cash for clunkers guidelines, the government allows only six months for the used cars to be crushed or shredded after the date they are transferred from the dealerships. Recycling companies say that the deadline is difficult to meet due to all the part removal that must be done in order to save valuable items like transmissions, axles, starters and alternators.

Jeff Cantor, who works with a recycler in Candia, New Hampshire, said, "True recycling is using something to its fullest potential and then recycling it over again by making it into steel and sending it out to become another engine or transmission or car. We’re breaking that circle here by crushing good quality parts. We can’t process them quick enough in six months."

Almost 700,000 new vehicles were bought under the government CARS program, with a “clunker” used car traded in on each new car deal. Consumers received rebate vouchers toward the purchase of the new cars for up to $4,500 for their trade-ins.

All the engines from the used cars were required to be disabled and destroyed in order for the goal of better fuel efficiency on U.S. roads to be reached.

Michael Wilson of the American Recyclers Association says, "We do have a lot of facilities that have two or three times the number of vehicles they could ever have imagined getting. They’re trying to process these in addition to their regular business."

The Association also notes that the six month deadline to recycle the used vehicle trade-ins did not take into account the additional new vehicles sold after the program’s expansion. In order to make the situation less difficult for recyclers, the Association met with the Transportation Department to request a delay of the deadline.

Sasha Johnson of the Transportation Department stated that they are aware of the request and that according to the rules, "most trade-ins through the CARS program do not need to be crushed until at least early next year."

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