Consultation document on risk management options for lead wheel weights: chapter 3

3.1. Canada

Currently no provincial or federal risk management instruments exist that restrict the manufacture, import or use of lead wheel weights in Canada.

However, the Canadian Auto Recyclers’ Environmental Code (CAREC) covers all end-of-life vehicles and is an important resource for automotive recyclers, outlining best practices for the environmentally sound management of end-of-life vehicles. This code provides recyclers with the most relevant information and tools to manage hazardous materials in end-of-life vehicles (e.g., lead wheel weights) and prevent them from contaminating our water, land and air during and after the vehicle recycling process.

It is expected that 40% of end-of-life vehicles in Canada are processed by auto-recyclers that have some form of environmental management system in place such as CAREC. This level varies widely from province to province and is as low as 20% in some provinces (Environment Canada, 2013).

3.2. Foreign Jurisdictions

The European UnionFootnote 1 and Japan have implemented bans on lead wheel weights on vehicles.Footnote 2 Also, several states in the U.S. have already taken regulatory action in this area. For example, as of January 1, 2010, California law prohibits the manufacture, sale or installation of wheel weights containing more than 0.1% lead.Footnote 3 Some U.S. states, such as Vermont, Maine, Minnesota, Washington, New York and Illinois have also enacted bills prohibiting their use.

These measures have positively impacted the Canadian market as lead wheel weights are no longer installed on new cars sold in Canada since 2008. However, lead wheel weights are still predominantly used in the aftermarket, which is mostly composed of small and medium-sized enterprises.

In 2009, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) established the National Lead Free Wheel Weight Initiative to encourage manufacturers and several retailers to use alternatives. However, lead wheel weights still represent 52% of the wheel weights market in the U.S. Furthermore, in response to a petition, the US EPA publicly announced that it is currently assessing the release of lead wheel weights into the environment and is considering developing rules at a national level.

3.3. Company-specific Programs and Practices

The Tire Industry Association, an international association representing all segments of the tire industry, has developed Environmental Best Practices, which describe procedures to follow in transitioning away from lead wheel weights and precautions that should be followed to ensure the proper handling, management and recycling of lead wheel weights.Footnote 4

Several individual companies in the wheel weights sector also have company-specific environmental policies and procedures that aim to reduce the environmental risk associated with these products. For example, some North American lead wheel weights manufacturers are voluntarily encouraging customers to switch to alternative materials, primarily steel and zinc. In addition, companies such as Plombco (Canada) are charter members of the US EPA-sponsored National Lead Free Wheel Weight Initiative that commits to substantially reducing the amount of lead used in the production of wheel weights. Perfect Equipment Inc. (U.S.), the world’s largest manufacturer of wheel weights, has a recycling program whereby the company accepts used wheel weights and pays for the cost of return freight to encourage recycling.Footnote 5 In Canada, several tire dealers and retailers have voluntarily transitioned away from lead wheel weights.

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