General Motors faces calls to return to mercury switch
Environment groups expressed concern and dismay with
the “new” General Motors (GM) claim that it’s not responsible
for funding the recycling of mercury switches from its
old vehicles. The groups are demanding that the company
continue meeting its obligations to fund legacy mercury
recovery costs from GM end-of-life vehicles.
“GM should not be hiding behind a bankruptcy proceeding
as an excuse for not meeting its on-going obligation
to fund a vital program for keeping mercury out of the
environment,” said Charles Griffith, director of the
Ecology Center’s Clean Car Campaign.
According to the industry estimates, 54 percent of all
vehicles containing mercury are GM models. Therefore,
it appears that GM is responsible for funding half the
costs of the industry collection program.
GM’s lack of financial support detracts further from
an overall lack of financing necessary for the national
program to operate effectively, say advocates. Last month,
a separate fund that helped pay incentives to auto dismantlers
for turning in switches ran out of cash.
Furthermore, GM has denied responsibility for paying
state-mandated incentives for the collection of auto
mercury switches. Ten states have passed mercury switch
legislation requiring automakers to pay for switch recycling
and provide incentives to auto dismantlers for collecting
By not paying bounties mandated by states, GM is also
jeopardizing the effectiveness of state programs as well.
“GM’s latest maneuver throws a monkey wrench into state
programs – if they stop paying bounties,” said Michael
Bender, director of the Mercury Policy Project.
In addition, the recently adopted federal “Cash for Clunkers”
program is also causing further difficulties for the
programs, because a lot more vehicles are also now being
Mercury switches were used to operate hood and trunk
convenience lights in vehicles made before 2004, when
automakers stopped their use. Upwards of 100 million
of these devices were used in vehicles.
Unless they are removed first, the mercury from auto
switches is released to the air when vehicles are recycled
at steel mills. This source contributes to both local
and global mercury pollution and contamination of fish.