Illinois' Mercury Switch Program & Non-Automotive Mercury Switches

Prior to 2003, auto manufacturers used mercury in control switches and anti-lock braking system (ABS) sensors in various vehicles.  Mercury from end-of-life vehicles is released to the environment when mercury switches are broken or crushed during dismantling.  While mercury can be considered a hazardous waste, mercury-containing equipment, like mercury switches, is treated as a “Universal Waste” to streamline disposal.  In 2006, the Illinois Legislature passed the Mercury Switch Removal Act (MSRA) encouraging auto recyclers to remove mercury switches prior to crushing or shredding vehicles.  Beginning September 1, 2008, MSRA changed making it mandatory for auto recyclers to remove mercury switches from end-of-life vehicles.  The MSRA expiration date was recently extended to January 1, 2022.  Under MRSA, mercury switch means a mercury-containing convenience light switch or a mercury-containing ABS G-Force sensor.


How much do I get paid for my switches?

Auto recyclers are paid $2.00 for each mercury switch returned.  This incentive fee is paid by auto manufacturers through the End-of-Life Vehicle Solutions (ELVS) program.  Include your completed removal logs and a W-9 form in the bucket with your switches prior to shipping.


How do I enroll in the program?

Illinois auto recyclers must contact ELVS at (877) 225-3587 or visit the ELVS website to enroll in the mercury switch collection program.  ELVS is currently partnering with US Ecology (USE).  USE receives the buckets for recycling and sends replacement buckets on request.


What if I have difficulty receiving payment?

If no payment is received, make sure complete Mercury Switch Removal Log(s) and a completed W-9 form were included with your bucket.  Ensure your bucket is returned within one year of the accumulation start date.  Label the bucket with the provided “Universal Waste” label.  Do not send damaged switches or buckets containing loose mercury.  Non-automotive mercury switches including but not limited to thermometers, thermostats, and industrial and appliance mercury switches are not accepted.


Important facts about mercury switch buckets.

Ensure the plastic liner is in place.  Label with accumulation start date when the first mercury switch is placed inside.  Store bucket with a sealed lid in the dismantling area out of the weather so switches can be added as they are removed from vehicles.  Leave glass mercury switches inside the housing or place inside secondary containment (such as an old medicine bottle or small Tupperware container) to prevent damage.  Record the accumulation start date, vehicle year, vehicle make, vehicle model, and type of switch (light switch or ABS sensor) of each switch removed in the Illinois Automotive Mercury Switch Removal Log provided with your bucket.


When and how do I return my bucket for recycling?

Ship the bucket to USE when it is full or if one year has lapsed since the start date, whichever comes first.  Do not exceed 450 switches per 3.5-gallon bucket (large) or 125 switches per 1-gallon bucket (small).  Request a replacement bucket from USE at least 10 days before the old one expires.  Seal bucket, place in the original shipping box, insert packing materials, and use the prepaid UPS label provided for shipping.  Place original Illinois Automotive Mercury Switch Removal Log in box and maintain a copy for your records.  USE logs switches received and sends the information to ELVS.




ELVS does not accept non-automotive mercury switches.  What do I do with them?

Safely store non-automotive mercury switches in mercury safe containers, not unlike those provided by ELVS, until recycling can occur.  Use packing material to prevent shifting and breaking.  Properly label with a “Universal Waste” label.  Keep an accurate log of items placed inside the container.

Illinois Public Act 100-0103 bans white goods (large appliances) from being placed in landfills unless mercury-containing components are first removed.  Discarded large appliances such as air conditioners, freezers, humidifiers, ranges, refrigerators, and water heaters are classified as white goods.  Components that include mercury may include electrical switches and fluorescent light tubes.  Contact the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) for further assistance in recycling white goods or components.

Send all other non-automotive mercury-containing components requiring recycling to a company capable of mercury recycling/recovery.  Recyclers may require waste profiles to be completed prior to issuing a waste manifest and accepting your mercury-containing items.  Transportation and/or shipping must be completed in accordance with all Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations.


While ELVS will ensure all received switches are properly recycled, they will not send notice if a bucket is rejected for payment.  If you have issues receiving a bucket or payment, feel free to contact VET for assistance.  Also, if you have non-automotive mercury switches that require recycling and would like assistance completing the process do not hesitate to call us.


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Sara HamidovicComment