New EPA, Industry Partnership Will Cut Mercury Emissions by 75 Tons
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, automakers, the scrap and steel industry announced a new National Vehicle Mercury Switch Recovery Program this week that will help cut mercury air emissions by up to 75 tons over the next 15 years.
The Program is designed to remove mercury-containing light switches from scrap vehicles before the vehicles are flattened, shredded, and melted to make new steel.
Although the U.S. automobile industry halted use of mercury-containing light switches in 2002, an estimated 67.5 million switches are currently in use in older vehicles and available for recovery.
Each year, the steel industry recycles more than 14 million tons of steel from scrap vehicles, the equivalent to nearly 13.5 million new automobiles, making vehicles the most recycled consumer product and the steel industry one of the largest consumers of recycled materials in the world.
Together with existing state mercury switch recovery efforts, this program will significantly reduce mercury air emissions from the furnaces used in steel making -- the fourth leading source in the United States after coal-fired utility boilers, industrial boilers and gold mining.
The participating organizations will take these steps:
· 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 recycling 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.
Domestic releases and uses of mercury have decreased significantly over the last 25 years. U.S. mercury air emissions have been reduced by 45 percent since 1990, and mercury use in products and processes decreased 83 percent between 1980 and 1997.
The National Vehicle Mercury Switch Recovery Program is the result of a two-year collaborative effort involving EPA, the End of Life Vehicle Solutions Corporation, the American Iron and Steel Institute, the Steel Manufacturers Association, the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, the Automotive Recyclers Association, Environmental Defense, the Ecology Center (Ann Arbor), and representatives of the Environmental Council of the States.
Sen. Musto (D-Luzerne) has introduced Senate Bill 524 that would create a program in Pennsylvania to collect and properly dispose of mercury switches from vehicles.
For more information, visit the National Vehicle Mercury Switch Recovery Program webpage.
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