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Automotive Recycler

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 and fluids.

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 until sold.

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," says Lieberman.

"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 Sheppard.

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 skills.

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
Read about running your own business

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OCAP believes that financial literacy and understanding the financial aid process are critical aspects of college planning and student success. OCAP staff who work with students, parents, educators and community partners in the areas of personal finance education, state and federal financial aid, and student loan management do not provide financial, investment, legal, and/or tax advice. This website and all information provided is for general educational purposes only, and is not intended to be construed as financial, investment, legal, and/or tax advice.