Washington, D.C. – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced that it has reached a major milestone with the removal of one million mercury switches from scrapped vehicles. The National Vehicle Mercury Switch Recovery Program is a collaboration of the EPA, automobile manufacturers, steelmakers, scrap and automotive recyclers, states and environmental groups.Prior to model-year 2003, some vehicles contained mercury switches for convenience lighting in hoods, trunks and some anti-lock braking systems. The program provides dismantlers with information, materials, support and incentives to remove the switches from end-of-life vehicles before they are crushed and sent to furnaces for steel recycling. The goal of the program is to capture 80 to 90 per cent of available mercury switches by 2017, when most pre-2003 vehicles are expected to be off the road and the program is scheduled to end.
“By pulling mercury switches before they enter the recycling system, we are improving the health of our environment and the health of generations of U.S. residents,” said EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson. “The one-millionth switch may be just another drop in a bucket, but it’s a big step toward erasing the environmental impacts of mercury air emissions in America.”
Vehicles are the most recycled consumer goods in America, with more than 14 million tons of steel from old vehicles recycled annually by the steel industry. If mercury switches are not removed from retired vehicles, a significant amount of mercury can be released into the environment as harmful air emissions.