The US state of Maine recently passed a landmark bill that for the first time forces automotive manufacturers to pay for the removal of mercury from vehicles, writes Philip Fine.

Car makers will now be responsible for removing and disposing of mercury-added components, such as switches in boot and bonnet lights, before vehicles are crushed or shredded for recycling.

Despite 10.5 million vehicles reaching the end of their useful lives each year in the United States, the country has enacted no federal laws concerning car recycling.

The country’s Environmental Protection Agency has been easier on manufacturers, saying retailers, consumers, and the existing waste management infrastructure may have to pitch in.

But car recycling legislation that puts the onus on manufacturers seems to have been moved forward by a partnership formed between the car recycling lobbies and several environmental organisations.

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Their coalition, Partnership for Mercury-Free Vehicles, developed model legislation for mercury removal and was adapted, in part, by legislation in Maine.
Almost two dozen states are currently looking at similar laws.

Massachusetts has a similar products bill heading to its House, while New York State has introduced a bill.

Meanwhile, 50 bills that would force manufacturers of all kinds to take some responsibility to deal with the mercury that they insert into their products have been introduced in 20 US state legislatures.