A crush of clunkers

It's not over for the clunkers.


Hundreds of local vehicles traded-in under the federal Cash for Clunkers program still need to be disposed of.

So far, Newell Recycling and Southern Pik-A-Part, both of which are in south Augusta and on the approved list of disposal facilities for local dealers, have received only about 20 cars total. The recycling yard has crushed only half a dozen clunkers, said Scott Cummins, the yard operations manager.

The holdup is with the car dealers.

"They've been kind of skittish to let go of them. Right now, they're waiting to make sure they're getting their money. We're probably looking at 150 cars outstanding at least," Mr. Cummins said.

Through the $3 billion Cash for Clunkers program, car buyers traded in gas guzzlers that met program guidelines for $3,500 or $4,500 rebates on new vehicles. When dealers are reimbursed by the federal government, they are required to crush the cars or send them to an auction for their parts to be sold before they are crushed, Mr. Cummins said. Dealers must dispose of the vehicles seven days after receiving payment.

"We have 180 days before each one of those vehicles has to be crushed," said Dennis McDaniel, the site manager at Southern Pik-A-Part.

Southern Pik-A-Part and Newell Recycling, which are owned by the same company, are working with about 10 local car dealerships. Southern Pik-A-Part pays dealers a flat rate for cars and then sells vehicle parts at its yard to consumers. Newell Recycling offers a scale rate and simply crushes the vehicles.

"The net money to the dealership would be virtually the same," Mr. McDaniel said.

Dealers can earn about $210 for the average family sedan. That's because the price of scrap metal recently increased in the commodities market, Mr. Cummins said.

"Originally, it had to go back to the purchaser, but they changed that shortly into the program. They allow the dealer to keep that money," said Mr. McDaniel said.

He looks forward to the extra revenue from the Cash for Clunkers cars.

"We haven't seen it yet, but we do anticipate that it's going to be a pretty good impact to our business," he said.

DISPOSAL FACILITIES have the "easy side of the business" in the Cash for Clunkers program, Mr. Cummins said.

"It's business as usual for us. The only thing different that we have to do is supply a certificate of disposal. Other than that, it doesn't change our routine," he said.

Dealers, on the other hand, had many extra requirements and more paperwork.

"There's strict guidelines on what the federal government wants us to do with those cars," Mr. McDaniel said.

First, dealers were required to disable each car. Originally, they put sodium silicate into the motor to disable it, but the guidelines later changed.

"Now, they're just draining the oil and running the engine until it locks up," Mr. Cummins said.

Dealers also had to put labels on the windshield, tag and engine and take pictures to submit with their applications. Disposal facilities issued dealers a vehicle disposal certification form, which contained basic information about the disposal company, dealer and vehicle. This form completed the dealer's package to submit for payment, he said.

At Southern Pik-A-Part, the cars are kept in a separate area where workers can ensure that customers aren't trying to remove prohibited parts, such as the motor, Mr. McDaniel added.

"No motors or the engine block and head can be sold," he said. "But we can sell basically ... all the body parts and things of that nature. What we're seeing in this area is there are a lot of people who buy trucks, especially the domestic trucks, and those are the gas guzzlers. That's what we're seeing being turned in."

"I think nationwide the Ford Explorer was the No. 1 vehicle being turned in. In this area, Chevy's always been king, so we're seeing a lot of Chevy trucks, along with the Ford Explorer," he added.

AUGUSTA AUTO AUCTION in North Augusta is expecting clunkers, said the general sales manager, Dan Dorsey. It should take one month for clunker auctions to begin because they're waiting to build up their inventory, Mr. Dorsey said.

"We have to sell them to the authorized dismantlers that are on the car's program list," Mr. Dorsey. "They're the same people trying to purchase them directly from the dealer, but what we're doing is trying to help the dealers to get a little more out of these."

There are probably eight authorized companies in a 50- to 60-mile radius of Augusta, he said. He's expecting more than 100 cars. His company charges dealers a fee for taking the cars.

The value that dealers receive depends on the type of vehicle and its condition. Cars that are in good condition will have their parts sold first, he said.

"We're expecting the dealers to get more back than they typically would dealing with the dismantlers. Right now, they're getting the metal weight, which is $65 per thousand pounds," Mr. Dorsey said. "We're trying to encourage dealers to come utilize the auction so they can possibly get some of that back.

"We've got one in inventory right now, and I'm looking to build that this week."

NEWELL RECYCLING HAS two crushers. One crushes cars flat, and the other compacts and crushes cars into bales.

"It's either going to be a small cube, or it's going to be the same length and width of the vehicle but it's only going to be 6 or 8 inches thick," Mr. Cummins said. "It's just an industrial version of a trash compactor in your kitchen. It depends on what machine we run it through.

"We can make a Ford Explorer ... about 30 inches by 30 inches. A little import car comes out not much bigger than these cardboard boxes. I've had a few cars come out not a lot bigger than a small refrigerator, like a Toyota Tercel -- tires, engine and all."

Five crushed, stacked cars are shorter than a typical person, he said. Next, the crushed cars are packed into railroad cars to be shipped to Savannah, Ga., for shredding.

"The shredder hammers it, and it comes out in little pieces about the size of your hand," Mr. Cummins said. "They process that through a series of eddy currents or magnetic conveyors and separate all the different metals. We clean that and sell off the different commodities."

These metals include iron, aluminum and copper.

The materials go through a series of conveyors, where huge magnets separate the ferrous metals. All of the nonferrous metals, such as aluminum, copper and brass, go through eddy currents because that's the only way to separate them in a production process, he said.

The company sends out high-grade products. The aluminum fragments are 99 percent pure. Consumers worldwide then purchase the product, Mr. Cummins said.

Reach LaTina Emerson at (706) 823-3227 or latina.emerson@augustachronicle.com.


Newell Recycling has a video of its powerful Newell Shredder on its Web site at newellrecycling.com/plasma.htm.



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