Notes from a presentation at Great Lakes United's 2001 workshop, "Extended Producer Responsibility and the Automotive Industry". In this presentation how to deal with mercury switches is explored.
The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers counts 13 of the principal car producers as members. Only two manufacturers are still using convenience light switches. One of the manufacturers is phasing out the switches by the end of this year and the other in 2004. Only one manufacturer is still using ABS switches in a limited number of models. They are phasing out the switches by the 2006 model year. However, new mercury containing devices have emerged: high intensity discharge headlights (0.5 mg of mercury each) and back-lit dashboards (2 mg), but these devices use much less mercury than switches, which contain approximately one gram each.
The past US legislative or regulatory status for mercury in cars can be described as follows: Vermont enacted a labelling rule in 2000; Maine passed a bill in 2000; and NEWMOA developed model legislation. This year, 6 more states have bills in process.
The Alliance of Automobile Manufactures considers the following to be appropriate attributes of legislation:
1) Focus should be on older vehicles;
2) Switches should be removed at End-of-Life;
3) Labelling new vehicles is not necessary because it provides little environmental benefit; and
4) Government action should be consistent and uniform.
The auto industry will provide educational assistance to recyclers/dismantlers on proper switch removal, will label vehicles as in Vermont, and support Vermont House Bill 111 as the one that should be adopted for all New England states.