Auto recycling group calls on GM to reconsider mercury switch decision.
Just as the Car Allowance Rebate System (CARS) has brought in some 700,000 trade-ins heading to automotive recycling facilities across the United States, General Motors (GM) is opting out of a mercury switch collection program for salvaged vehicles.
The Automotive Recyclers Association (ARA), Manassas, Va., says GM is the largest contributor to the mercury switch program, known as the End of Life Vehicle Solutions Corp. program (ELVS). It also accused GM, now 60 percent owned by the federal government, of turning its back on an environmental program championed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The trade group for auto dismantlers, in a news release, says GM “is choosing to ignore [its] environmental responsibilities by opting out of a program which is responsible for collecting over 2.5 million mercury switches since it was created in 2005.”
In its news release, the ARA states, “The CARS program mandates that convenient light mercury switches and other hazardous substances be removed before the vehicles are shredded. If these are not removed, toxic waste is released into the environment with severe detriment to vegetation and sea life, and ultimately humans. Therefore, it comes as a surprise and disappointment to the Automotive Recyclers Association (ARA) that GM [is] is opting out.”
ELVS was formed by the automakers, according to the ARA, “to help them address their mercury switch responsibility. Without the support of the program, automotive recyclers would find it difficult to participate in this voluntary system of mercury switch disposal.”
States ARA Executive Vice President Michael Wilson. “We, as others, are greatly concerned that a company that is both 60 percent owned by the federal government, and is a significant recipient of the benefits from the now $3 billion CARS (“cash for clunkers”) program, is being allowed to turn its back on a commitment to a very important environmental program set up by the government’s own U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.”
Adds Wilson, “This further highlights the need to find a stable funding source for the
National Vehicle Mercury Switch Recovery Program (NVMSRP), if the mercury from these convenient light switches is to be kept out of the environment.”
GM’s decision, according to ARA, is based on a claim that as a “new” company it no longer makes vehicles with mercury switches and therefore is not responsible for the older vehicles made by the prior GM. The old company, still under bankruptcy court supervision, said it is reviewing agreements involving the former company.
“Auto recyclers did not make the vehicles with mercury switches,” says Wilson, “but our industry has stepped up in record numbers to participate in this voluntary program to help protect the environment. The nominal fee per mercury switch that automotive recyclers receive hardly reimburses them for their time and effort spent removing them. The ARA is troubled by the ‘new’ GM’s decision in this matter. It’s shameful to hide behind [semantics] to avoid responsibility.”
The ELVS program is scheduled to run until 2017 and has recovered nearly 5,600 pounds of mercury. GM, prior to its bankruptcy, was the group’s largest participant and informed the partnership of the change last week.