Aftermarket & the Environment Supplement

All cars go to... heaven?

By: Jennifer Holloway

Nearly 60,000 gas-guzzling, smog-producing cars have been taken off the road, thanks to Car Heaven, an initiative by the Clean Air Foundation that promises to retire older vehicles and properly recycle them.

Car Heaven started as an Ontario program in July 2000, but has now grown to a national program, says Fatima Dharsee, Car Heaven's program manager. "Every region has a Car Heaven call centre that people can call to donate their old clunkers," she adds. Donors can also fill out an online form at www.carheaven.ca.

Each vehicle is recycled in an environmentally friendly way, including draining it of all its fluids and safely re-using them or properly disposing of them; recovering the mercury switches; and removing seat foam and other substances before the vehicle is crushed and shredded so that its steel can be re-used. The less-than-environmentally friendly recycling options include burning vehicles so that all that remain is the steel, says Dharsee.

Car Heaven's target is pre-1995 vehicles that have been registered for at least the last six months. "We want to get active older cars off the road," Dharsee explains. However, the program accepts all vehicles.

Donors receive a free tow of the vehicle and, in most cases, a $50 tax receipt to one of 20 charities. (The auto recycler who receives the car pays $50 to the charity and the donor receives the tax receipt.) Dharsee says a network of 200 auto recyclers and the support of the provincial auto recyclers associations have helped Car Heaven get moving.

But a partnership established in 2005 has really pushed Car Heaven forward. The program teamed up with GM Canada. When a donor donates a pre-1995 "live" vehicle, GM will provide a $1,000 rebate for the purchase of a new, smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicle.

Dharsee says Car Heaven decided to look for an automotive partner after it conducted a survey that revealed donors were replacing their Car Heaven donation with another used car. "If people are replacing their clunker with another used car, we aren't having an effect on emissions," Dharsee says, adding the partnership has had a positive impact and the participation rate has tripled.

Depending on the region, other local incentives are also available. In Toronto, for example, donors are offered a special discount to join AutoShare, a 24-hour vehicle sharing service.

For more information, go to www.carheaven.ca.

Jennifer Holloway is web editor of the EcoLog Environmental Resources Group, a division of Business Information Group.

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