Manufacturers must pay a minimum of $1 for each mercury switch brought to the consolidation sites as partial compensation for the removal, storage and transport of the switches, the bill states.
"This law will go a long way toward eliminating one key source of mercury in our environment," said Charles Griffith, auto project director of the Ecology Center. "Maine has set the tone for the rest of the nation."
The Ecology Center, in Ann Arbor, Mich., and the Automotive Recyclers Association, a national grade group in Fairfax, Va., are part of a consortium of groups called the Partnership for Mercury-Free Vehicles that pushed the legislation. The goal is to collect and recycle at least 90 pounds of mercury per year from mercury switches removed from motor vehicles.
Manufacturers have until Sept. 30 to tell the state how they plan to comply with the new rules.
Maine's action paves the way for others to take similar action, said Michael Bender, director of the Mercury Policy Project, another consortium member. "It sets tremendous precedent for the passage of similar bills pending in Massachusetts, New York, Vermont, Rhode Island and numerous other states across the country," Bender said. The removal of mercury in vehicles headed toward recycling has become a hot issue as manufacturers and recyclers square off on the responsibility and cost.
"This is an issue that has been created by the manufacturers, as they have chosen to put mercury in their vehicles," said Bill Steinkuller, executive vice president of the Automotive Recyclers Association.
The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, which is based in Washington and represents 13 companies including the Big 3 and Toyota, sees it a different way.
"This is something that's better done by recyclers," alliance spokes- man Eron Shosteck said. "A lot of things automobile dismantlers recover from cars are very profitable, and there should not be a distinction on what they recover from cars on whether it's profitable or not."