Sustainability in the UK automotive repair industry has progressed in recent years but we are way behind the US in terms of using recycled vehicle parts. The US vehicle repair marketplace has always had recycled parts within its normal working practises. Many years ago, rather than wait the 10-14 days it took to get new parts from Detroit, repairers went looking in scrap yards and used parts from old vehicles. That has always been the norm. In the UK access to new parts has always been readily available so we haven’t had to find alternatives.
However, over the last 5 years we have seen the use of recycled parts becoming more common with closed loop systems for large Fleets such as Royal Mail. Vehicles that have been written off are sent to a central salvage agent and the parts are harvested for other vehicles in the Fleet that are being repaired. Not having to wait for new parts to come in and be painted saves time and money as vehicle is repaired and back on the road more quickly.
This is a start but more needs to be done. The motor insurance and vehicle repair sectors need to be convinced that using recycled parts is a viable option for them and their customers, with regards to availability and speed of delivery but in particular, with regards to safety and being able to meet their responsibilities.
Attitudes to environmental sustainability are starting to change in the automotive industry, and a lot has been discussed in the press about increasing the number of electric vehicles and phasing out diesel. But we have a long way to go and the whole industry needs to be involved, from the manufacturers through to the recyclers and dismantlers.
Companies like to be seen to be green but often are only doing the basics either due to legislation or because it is what the customer wants. The UK is very good at recycling products at the end of their life but not during normal usage.
My gut feel is that by 2020 we will be in a very different marketplace. We are starting to see real changes happening, with manufacturers investing in electric or plug-in hybrid vehicles and hydrogen fuel technology. This in itself raises interesting challenges for the parts and repair industry, which needs to keep up and fall in line.
But in addition to planning for the future, the industry needs to take action now. France brought in a law at the beginning of this year that states that green recycled parts must be referenced anytime repair work is required on a car – it would be great to see this brought in for the UK.