<title>A Collaborative Approach to Reducing Mercury Air Emissions</title>
<type>single page tiff</type>
THE NATIONAL VEHICLE MERCURY SWITCH RECOVERY PROGRAM
A Collaborative Approach
to Reducing Mercury Air Emissions
What Is the
National Vehicle Mercury Switch
The National Vehicle Mercury Switch Recovery Program is designed to
remove mercury-containing switches from scrap (or retired) vehicles.
These switches were used for convenience lighting in hoods and
trunks and in some anti-lock braking systems of many vehicles manu-
factured prior to 2003. The program, which will complement existing
State mercury switch reduction efforts, will help to reduce up to 75
tons of mercury emissions over the next 15 years. It is the result of a
two-year collaboration involving EPA, States, environmental organiza-
tions, and several industry sectors.
Vehicles are the most recycled consumer goods in America. Each year,
the steel industry recycles more than 14 million tons of steel from old
vehicles, the equivalent of nearly 13.5 million new automobiles. As a
result, the steel industry is the largest consumer of recycled materials
in the world.
But the same recycling that saves energy and natural resources can
lead to unintended mercury releases. As this figure shows,
when cars are retired, most are processed by automo-
tive dismantlers, also known as automotive recy-
clers. These dismantlers remove certain valu-
able parts for reuse and recycling. In most
cases, the stripped-down vehicles are
then flattened for shipment to scrap
recyclers. Scrap recyclers shred the
vehicles and produce scrap metal.
Steelmakers purchase and melt
the scrap metal to make new
steel and steel products. If mer-
cury switches were not removed
from the recycling stream, a
significant amount of that mer-
cury can be released into the
The National Vehicle Mercury Switch Recovery Program provides in-
centives for dismantlers to remove mercury-containing switches from
scrap vehicles before they are shredded and used to make new steel.
Once the vehicles are crushed, it's too late. The opportunity to remove
mercury in the recycling stream is lost.
is the Problem?
While automakers have phased out the use of mercury-containing
switches, today's automobiles can have a long street life. As such,
many of these vehicles may still be on the road. Others may be off
the road and headed to scrap yards. Overall, an estimated 67 million
switches are available for recovery.
How Will This
A number of organizations and industry sectors have come together to
address the problem of mercury-containing switches in automobiles.
The key partners and some of their unique roles are summarized on
the next page.
End of life vehicles
Insight • Innovation • Results ^^^1 * ».
1 United States
• Ten automakers created the End of Life Vehicle Solutions Corporation
(ELVS), which will provide dismantlers with information and supplies
needed for switch removal, collect and transport switches to proper recy-
cling and disposal facilities, and track program performance.
• Participating dismantlers will remove mercury-containing switches and
ship them to ELVS, giving the dismantlers the ability to market reduced-
mercury scrap and earn recognition and certain financial incentives.
• Participating scrap recyclers will build awareness of the mercury
switch removal program in their own industry and in the dismantling
industry, which is their chief supplier of scrap vehicles.
• Participating steelmakers will educate and encourage their supply
chain to participate, and will take steps to purchase scrap metal
generated from participating dismantlers and recyclers that have
removed the mercury-containing switches.
These industries will have support from participating environmental
groups; the Environmental Council of the States (EGOS), the associa-
tion representing state environmental agencies; and U.S. EPA. The
environmental groups have agreed to publicly endorse the program;
support outreach, education, and oversight related activities, and par-
ticipate in the development and improvement of data collection efforts
related to mercury recovery. EGOS, which provided extensive guid-
ance and information to develop the program, will now take a number
of steps to implement it. In addition, EGOS and the partners will work
to coordinate this program with existing State programs and to provide
services to States without such programs. Finally, U.S. EPA has com-
mitted to take the national program into account in future rulemaking
affecting scrap metal-using industries, to share information broadly
about the program and its benefits, and to assist in efforts to assess
and improve it.
How Will We Know
If the Program Is Working?
ELVS will make information about the program and its participants avail-
able on its website at www.elvsolutions.org. All of the program partners
have agreed to regularly review the data and use it to make any neces-
Protects public health — working along with State programs will help
cut up to 75 tons of mercury emissions over the next 15 years
Conserves energy and natural resources — promotes
automotive recycling and steel recycling
Maintains economic competitiveness — supports numerous
industries that produce and use scrap metal
Cost-effective — costs far less per pound of mercury than
conventional emission controls
What Else Is EPA _Doing
to Address This Problem?
The national program is one of several steps EPA is taking to reduce
emissions from mercury-containing switches. Other steps include:
Regulating mercury air emissions - In 2007, EPA will propose
a national emission standard for hazardous air pollutants for Electric
Arc Furnaces, which are used by many steel mills to melt scrap
metal. EPA plans to propose options allowing steel furnaces to use
mercury-reduced scrap that results from the national switch recov-
ery program as a means of meeting mercury air standards. In the
future, EPA also plans to propose revised rules regarding mercury
emissions from other types of furnaces which use scrap metal to
make steel and steel products.
Limiting future use of mercury switches — In June 2006, EPA
proposed a rule that would impose requirements on any future use of
these types of mercury-containing switches in passenger vehicles.
Addressing mercury disposal — Reusing mercury from switches
and other products offsets resource-intensive mercury mining, but as
industries find mercury alternatives, a global mercury surplus is ex-
pected. This year, EPA and other federal agencies will initiate a dialogue
with technical experts and interested parties on options for disposing of
• The American Iron and Steel Institute — www.steel.org
• The Steel Manufacturers Association — www.steelnet.org
• The Automotive Recyclers Association — www.a-r-a.org
• The Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries — www.isri.org
• The End of Life Vehicles Corporation — www.elvsolutions.org
• Environmental Defense — www.environmentaldefense.org
• The Ecology Center — www.ecocenter.org
• The Environmental Council of the States — www.ecos.org
• The Environmental Protection Agency — www.epa.gov
For more information, please visit www.epa.gov/mercury
or contact any of the program partners listed above.
Easy — dismantlers can find and remove most switches within