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Picture taken by Kim Clark, 2009

Hazardous Waste & Toxics Reduction

Auto Recycler Waste > Automotive Mercury Switch Removal Program

Automotive Mercury Switch Removal Program

Photo: Worker dropping removed mercury switch into the collection bucket.

Certain models of older vehicles contain mercury switches. Mercury switches are electrical switches that use mercury pellets to turn them on and off. If not removed from the vehicle prior to recycling, the mercury is released into the air when the vehicle is scrapped and can contaminate lakes and streams. Since 2006, vehicle recyclers in Washington have collected more than 180,000 mercury switches from the hoods and trunks of scrap vehicles. This kept more than 400 pounds of this toxic metal out of the environment! It is a goal of the program to remove the remainder of mercury switches from these legacy vehicles.

How does the program work?

The program pays vehicle recyclers and scrap processors to remove and collect mercury switches. Collected switches are placed into a bucket that we provide and when the bucket is full it is mailed to End of Life Solutions (ELVS). There the mercury-containing pellets are removed from the switches, counted, and participants are reimbursed $3.00 per light switch and $9.00 per ABS sensor. There is no cost to the recycler to participate in this program! Collection buckets and mailing supplies are provided and we pay for shipping.

How do I sign up?

It's easy! Simply fill out the Statewide Payee Registration form (PDF) and the Vehicle Recycler Sign-Up form (PDF) and mail, fax (425-649-7218), or e-mail the completed forms to us. We will then contact you to:

  • Answer any questions you might have about the program.
  • Offer training on mercury switch removal as needed.
  • Send you supplies to get you started.

Most of the automobile recyclers in Washington are now part of the Switch Removal Program. Join them!

How do I locate and remove mercury switches?

There are many Ecology publications and resources to help you:

I'm already signed up for the program. Where do I send my bucket?

  1. Put the Universal Waste label on the bucket. Put the bucket into the box that you were provided along with the bucket.
  2. Put the UPS label on the box and mail the box.
  3. Call ELVS and ask for a new bucket: 734-547-2511.
  4. Sign and mail, e-mail, or fax an invoice (PDF) to the Department of Ecology.

If you cannot find your mailing label, contact ELVS and request a new bucket. The replacement bucket will have a box, mailing label, and Universal Waste label that can be used to deliver your current bucket.

What if I have other items that contain mercury?

Other mercury-containing devices, such as household thermostats and thermometers, cannot be disposed of in this program, please visit Ecology's Moderate Risk Waste Information site.

For more information about the Auto Mercury Switch Removal Program, contact Jeffrey Gutschmidt at (425) 649-7140.

Other Resources

Ecology's Mercury website includes health hazards of mercury and describes the work Ecology is doing to protect workers, the public, and the environment.