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Arkansas Enacts Mercury Switch Removal Bill

March 15, 2005

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee made history when he signed the “Mercury Switch Removal Act of 2005” on March 8. This new state law establishes a program that requires mercury switches to be removed from end of life vehicles before they are crushed, or flattened, and shredded. Automobile manufacturers are made financially responsible for the removal and collection of the switches and the recovery of the gram of mercury each switch contains. For nearly three decades, U.S. auto manufacturers used mercury in some light switches found in autos – particularly for switches controlling lights in the trunk and under the hood. While the use of mercury in these switches was banned in 2003, over 200 million autos containing these switches were produced between 1974 and 2003 using over 440,000 pounds of mercury. Last year, over 7 million vehicles containing mercury switches were “retired” from the road. Removing these mercury switches from vehicles prevents this mercury from being vaporized as the scrap metals from these vehicles is remelted and remanufactured. The Arkansas bill is based on a model developed by the Partnership for Mercury Free Vehicles (PMFV), a coalition made up of organizations including the Automotive Recyclers Association, the Ecology Center, Environmental Defense, the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, the Steel Recycling Institute and the Steel Manufacturers Association. As in this new law, the PMFV’s model legislation requires automakers to take responsibility — including financial — for the safe removal for mercury containing light switches from end-of-life vehicles, prior to being shredded and recycled into new products. Under the new Arkansas law, auto makers must pay $5 for each switch removed and additional $1 per switch to the Arkansas Department of Environmental Protection for oversight of the program. The bill passed the Arkansas legislature with an overwhelming bi-partisan vote – only one member having voted against the bill. This legislation will also become the first law in the nation that requires auto manufacturers to report on steps taken to design vehicles and their components for recycling. Similar mercury switch removal legislation has been passed by the New Jersey legislature with the bill awaiting the Governor’s signature. Other states, including Washington, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts are considering mercury switch removal bills.
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