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Mercury Switch Removal Program

The Mercury Switch Removal Program (MSR Program) is a program created by the North Carolina General Assembly that was signed into law on Sept. 13, 2005. This law requires mercury-containing convenience lighting switches to be removed from all end-of-life vehicles prior to crushing, shredding or smelting of these vehicles. The MSR Program staff are responsible for the development, implementation and enforcement of this law. The goal of the Program is to meet or exceed 9 percent of the national mercury switch removal performance.

On Aug. 11, 2006, with the state of North Carolina participating, the Environmental Protection Agency, automobile manufacturers, scrap processors, steel makers and auto recyclers signed a national Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) agreement which, in part, created the National Vehicle Mercury Switch Recovery Program. Through this MOU, the auto manufacturers agent, ELVS, will supply educational materials (which include detailed instructions for removal of the mercury switches) and will provide collection containers, shipping and recycling /disposal of the mercury switches. [The End-of-Life Vehicle Solutions (ELVS) is a corporation created jointly by the auto manufacturers. See hyperlinks below for information regarding ELVS and the National MOU.]

Following the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) request to amend the existing law so as to align with the National Vehicle Mercury Switch Recovery Program, Governor Easley, on June 29, 2007, signed amendments to the Mercury Switch Removal legislation, which incorporated guidelines from the Memorandum of Understanding and realigned the legislated requirements.

Originally, this MSR Program was slated to end June 30, 2017; however, per SL 2017-57 the program has been extended until June 30, 2021

Overview of the Mercury Switch Removal Program

After June 30, 2007, all vehicle recyclers or vehicle dismantlers must remove the mercury-containing capsule (commonly referred to as a "bullet") located in the hood and/or trunk light assembly, or the entire convenience light assembly containing the mercury switch, in the end-of-life vehicle before that vehicle is crushed (on or off-site). This law applies to vehicle crushers, vehicle dismantlers, vehicle recyclers or vehicle scrap processing facilities that are engaged in the business of acquiring, dismantling or destroying six or more end-of-life vehicles in a calendar year for the primary purpose of resale of vehicle parts or scrap metal. The vehicle must be marked indicating that the switches are removed and the bullet or the switch assembly must be stored safely and managed under the Universal Waste regulations.

If the vehicle is damaged such that the mercury switch cannot be removed safely (where there is a risk of releasing mercury by breaking the bullet), the vehicle may be crushed and shredded, without further attempts to remove the switch.

After the mercury switches have been removed, the uncrushed vehicle must be marked showing that mercury switches have been removed.

  • A log must be kept detailing the number of mercury switches removed, and when shipping mercury switches for disposal/recycling, the date and number of switches shipped must also be recorded. It is also requested that the log note the number of vehicles in which the mercury switches could not be removed.
  • The mercury switches that have been removed must be safely stored in a sealed re-sealable container, marked with the words "Universal Waste - mercury-containing equipment" and the date the first switch was placed in the container.
  • The switches must be managed as Universal Waste.

Mercury Switch Reimbursement

The Mercury Switch Removal Program will reimburse the vehicle recycler $5.00 for each mercury switch removed through the Mercury Pollution Prevention (MPP account as per S.L. 2011-145). After the mercury switches have been shipped off site, a request for Program reimbursement [$ 5.00 per switch] is to be made to the North Carolina Mercury Switch Removal Program. The request must include:

  1. Completed NC MSR Program Reimbursement Request form (see link below);
  2. A copy of EQ received switch count [To obtain a copy, use link below, EQ-Online. Scroll to the bottom of the page to state reports and select North Carolina in the drop down box and click on Report. Type your company name in the name box and click on Search. Scroll down to your name and check your company information. Click on "view detail," it will list the receiving information, and print out that page (click on the printer icon near the right corner).];
  3. The time period for which these switches were collected; and
  4. For that same time period, if a record of the number of switches which could not be safely removed from scrap vehicles has been kept, please include this information.

Success of the Program

Recovered switches are collected from North Carolina vehicle dismantlers/recyclers, vehicle crushers and scrap processing facilities by the ELVS contractor and managed as “Universal Waste.” A total of 1,188.7 pounds of mercury was taken out of North Carolina’s environment from 2007-2015 through the N.C. MSR Program (see table below). North Carolina’s MSR Program has been very successful, ranking top in the nation in mercury recovery performance among ELVS member states six out of the last eight years and preventing 1,189 pounds of mercury from being released into the environment. This amount came from 454,444 mercury switches removed from vehicles that were model year 2002 and older. Among non-ELVS states for which data is available, only California recovered more total mercury switches in 2015.

North Carolina MSR Program Ranking and Mercury Collected (This table is on a calendar year, not North Carolina fiscal year)

Year

N.C. ranking among states, by percent
of available mercury switches collected

Number of switches collected each year

Pounds of mercury collected*

2006

No rankings

0

 

2007

No rankings

15,301

40.5

2008

8

49504

131.0

2009

1

100,598

266.1

2010

1

97,535

258.0

2011

5

33,890

89.7

2012

1

49,561

131.1

2013

1

39,195

103.7

2014

1

38,479

101.8

2015

1

30,381

66.8

TOTAL

 

454,444

1,188.7

Penalties

It is unlawful for a person to do any of the following:

  1. Knowingly flatten, crush, bale, shred or otherwise alter the condition of a vehicle from which accessible mercury switches have not been removed, in any manner that would prevent or significantly hinder the removal of a mercury switch.
  2. Willfully fail to remove a mercury switch when the person is required to do so.
  3. Knowingly make a false report that a mercury switch has been removed from an end-of-life vehicle.
  4. Obtain a mercury switch from another source and falsely report that it was removed from a vehicle processed for recycling.

Any person who violates subdivision (1) or (2) above shall be punished as provided in G.S. 14-3. (non-specific - Class 1 misdemeanor). Any person who violates subdivision (3) or (4) above shall be guilty of a Class 2 misdemeanor and, upon conviction, shall be punished as provided in G.S. 130A-26.2. Offenses are punishable by imprisonment and/or fines.

Additionally, a violation of any provision of this Part, any rule adopted pursuant to this Part, or any rule governing universal waste may be enforced by an administrative or civil action as provided in Part 2 of Article 1 of this Chapter of 130A-22(a). Administrative penalties.

The Secretary of Environmental Quality may impose an administrative penalty on a person who violates Article 9 of this Chapter, rules adopted by the Commission pursuant to Article 9, or any order issued under Article 9. Each day of a continuing violation shall constitute a separate violation. The penalty shall not exceed fifteen thousand dollars ($15,000) per day in the case of a violation involving non-hazardous waste. The penalty shall not exceed thirty-two thousand five hundred dollars ($32,500) per day in the case of a first violation involving hazardous waste as defined in G.S. 130A-290.

Contact information and links are listed below:

Mercury Switch Removal Program
Hazardous Waste Section
1646 Mail Services Center
Raleigh, NC 27699
(919) 707-8200

Kelly Galantis   Office Assistance  (919) 707-2805

Mark Burnette Supervisor (919)-280-4929

Mercury Switch Removal Program Regional/County Contacts

Links:
Mercury-Containing Equipment FAQ
N.C. Mercury Switch Management - Fact Sheet
Mercury Switch Reimbursement Guidance
EQ-Online
End of Life Vehicles Solutions [ELVS]
List of Switches and Lighting Removal Guide
N.C. Session Law 2005-384 as amended by 2007-107
National Vehicle Mercury Switch Recovery Program MOU
National Vehicle Mercury Switch Recovery Program FAQ Sheet
Mercury Spills, Disposal and Site Cleanup