Recycling in The North : What Goes Up Must Come Down

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Managing fluids and materials for end-for-life vehicles in remote communities can be a challenge.

The Automotive Recyclers of Canada (ARC) has long advocated for a national recycling standard, but the logistics of getting waste or parts from Northern Canada back down to where they have value are complicated. There is a real gap between what we’re doing in the populated south and what they’re even capable of doing up there.

Tundra Take Back, run by Scout Environmental, is a program that partners auto recyclers with northern communities to efficiently manage end-of-life vehicles and minimize their environmental impact.

Scout is a not-for-profit organization that develops and implements sustainability programs. ARC has worked with Scout on a number of different projects, including Retire Your Ride, Switch Out and Car Heaven.

Tundra Take Back began in Nunavut about three years ago in a few different communities. ARC acts as a catalyst for making people understand that auto recycling can be done right, but sometimes you need to improvise. What better place than the far north to figure that out?

Three years in

During the first year, we figured out what we didn’t know. The second year, we worked in three or four locations and kept fine-tuning the model until last year, when we were in about five locations.

We visited one location where we didn’t actually do any hands-on work, but it was all about training. A few local people were brought in and walked through our environmental protocols that form the basis for how and where you depollute a vehicle, and then began to brainstorm how they could manage without the equipment or buildings that most of us have easy access to in Southern Canada.

Ultimately, we provide a little bit of money and a lot of knowledge in terms of the codes and how-tos, but we also provide our members with expertise and the opportunity for them to travel up north. These members are excited to work within their area of expertise in a completely different environment and experience a new culture.

A life of its own

The program has begun to identify some longer term funding, so rather than going year-to-year, it is starting to tap into federal, provincial and territorial monies to provide for better planning.

Tundra Take Back has truly taken on a life of its own and ARC is there to promote it and to bring the members into an organization that is dedicated to ensuring vehicles are depolluted and recycled responsibly across Canada. The north is a part of Canada, and we have some responsibility to make sure that it’s done right up there too.

It’s a very interesting project for us as an organization in that it lets us demonstrate that we’re proactive and part of the solution. It allows us to provide expertise and information in a place that not many people get to visit.

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