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Virginia Association Pledges to Help the Environment

Release Date: 05/25/2006
Contact Information: Bonnie Smith, 215-814-5543 & Joan Schafer, 215-814-5143

PHILADELPHIA - In a ceremony in Philadelphia, the United States Environmental Protection Agency recognized the Virginia Automotive Recyclers Association as the first automotive recycling association in the country to enroll in the voluntary national partnership for environmental priorities.

“We are building a new environmental ethic in this country - - one based on mutual understanding, mutual agreements, and a commitment to stewardship,” said EPA mid-Atlantic regional administrator Donald S. Welsh. “The commitment made by the Virginia Automotive Recyclers Association serves as a model for other recycling facilities across the nation. As a leading member of the Virginia business community, this association has taken steps to go above and beyond environmental compliance.”

The new voluntary program challenges businesses and manufacturers to become more environmentally aware and to adopt a resource conservation ethic that results in less waste, more recycling, and more environmentally sound products.

The Virginia Automotive Recyclers Association has 26 members participating in a program with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality to recover and recycle mercury switches from automobiles during salvage operations. The goal is to collect 10,000 of these switches and send them to an approved mercury recycler, which will eliminate the potential for 30 pounds of mercury to be released into the environment.

There is approximately 1 gram of mercury in the switches found in many older model cars. This mercury often ends up in wastewater and air emissions once cars are dismantled and then chopped for scrap before being sent to steel mills.

Mercury switches are used in the lighting assembly for hoods and trunks, in ABS brake systems, batteries, rear defrosters, air bag sensors, and keyless entry systems. If not removed, the mercury in the switches is vaporized and emitted into the air when the scrap is processed into steel.

The Virginia Automotive Recyclers Association is focusing primarily on mercury switches used in the convenience lighting in hoods and trunks because they represent the bulk of mercury switches used consistently in vehicles produced over the past three decades.

Mercury is at the top of the EPA's list of priority chemicals. Once emitted into the environment, mercury reacts to form methyl mercury, which then accumulates within the food chain and disrupts normal reproduction and neurological development.

EPA created the national partnership for environmental priorities, one of EPA's family of voluntary partnership programs, in order to reduce 31 highly toxic, priority chemicals found in our nation's hazardous waste.

This national program seeks solutions that prevent pollution at the source, by recovering or recycling chemicals, which cannot easily be eliminated or reduced at the source.

For more information about the national partnership for environmental priorities, go to