April 2006

Agreement reached on national switch recovery program

Washington, DC— Representatives from the vehicle manufacturers, steelmakers, vehicle dismantlers, vehicle shredders, environmental community, states and the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have reached agreement on a statement of principles detailing the elements of a national program.

The program is for recovering mercury switches from scrap cars and light trucks before they are shredded for recycling. The parties are now working to complete a formal agreement.

Historically, mercury light switches were used in autos for convenience lights (under the hood or in the trunk) and in anti-lock braking systems.

Automakers have phased out the use of these mercury switches in new vehicles. When retired vehicles are recycled, however, the mercury from unrecovered switches can be released to the environment.

The national program would include a commitment by automakers to provide information regarding switch removal and take responsibility for collection, transportation and recycling of the switches. Auto dismantlers and others who recover switches would submit them to the program for proper management. Steelmakers and those who produce steel scrap for steelmaking use would promote participation in the program and also act to ensure mercury switches are removed. Automakers and steelmakers would create a fund in support of implementation of the program and for incentives for participation to those removing switches.

The National Mercury Switch Recovery Program Statement of Principles for agreement’s final version:

  1. The parties are committing to create the National Mercury Switch Recovery Program (NMSRP). They agree recovery of mercury switches prior to crushing and shredding of end-of-life vehicles is the most effective way to reduce mercury which would otherwise be emitted into the environment.
  2. The NMSRP is a collaborative program involving the vehicle manufacturers, steelmakers, vehicle dismantlers, vehicle crushers, auto shredders, brokers, environmental community, state representatives and the EPA.
  3. The goal of the NMSRP is to significantly reduce air emissions of mercury from steel making facilities that utilize auto shred by substantially reducing the number of mercury-containing switches in scrap automobiles before they are crushed and shredded for recycling.
  4. Vehicle manufacturers will have the lead responsibility for providing information, education and outreach regarding switch removal. They are responsible for collecting and transporting them for proper recycling or disposal, and will assume liability for the switches once they are collected. They will also establish a database to track switch recovery by program participants and help evaluate overall program performance.
  5. Participating dismantlers and others processing end-of-life vehicles will recover mercury switches and submit them to the Program.
  6. Steelmakers will strongly encourage their suppliers and others in the supply chain to support and participate in the NMSRP. In anticipation of EPA’s proposed steel industry Area Source and other regulations, such as the Iron and Steel MACT rule, that will require steelmaking facilities to reduce mercury in scrap feedstock by developing and implementing scrap work practice standards, individual steelmakers will take steps consistent with such regulatory requirements and the NMSRP to minimize the presence of mercury in auto shred.
  7. All organizational participants in the NMSRP will support implementation of the Program through public endorsements and by encouraging their members to participate.
  8. The EPA will take the NMSRP into serious consideration when developing an area source regulation for Electric Arc Furnaces (EAFs) and other relevant regulations.
  9. The vehicle manufacturers and steelmakers will create a three-year, $4 million implementation fund in support of the Program. They each will contribute half of the funding. No additional funding is required or contemplated. The fund will support the implementation of the NMSRP through incentive payments to those recovering switches.
  10. Aggressive mercury recovery goals and performance metrics have been identified for the program. Performance will be assessed on a regular basis by all of the participating parties. Participants will work to continuously enhance the Program’s performance on an ongoing basis.
  11. In each state where the NMSRP is being implemented, the parties to this agreement will work collaboratively to develop an implementation plan that will provide for regular evaluation of progress and mid-course corrections to improve performance.
  12. The NMSRP will be implemented until 2017 based on estimates that 90% of the vehicles containing mercury switches will be retired by that time. If the mercury switch issue becomes an insignificant contribution to the environment before that time, the program may end. If the mercury switch issue continues to be significant after that date, the program may be extended.


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