Synopsis of universal waste small-quantity handler requirements to manage mercury switches removed from automobiles through the ELVS Program
Mercury switches are considered a toxicity characteristic hazardous waste when disposed of because their mercury content exceeds the 0.2 parts per million regulatory limit for hazardous waste. Hazardous wastes must be handled under specific regulations that establish requirements for storage, tracking and disposal. This is often referred to as “cradle-to-grave” management. The specific regulations hazardous waste generators must follow depend on the quantity and type of waste they generate or accumulate on-site. The regulations become more complex as a generator’s volume of waste increases.
EPA established new regulations for certain materials formerly subject to management as hazardous waste. These standards ease much of the on-site accumulation, storage and shipping requirements for specified materials. The intent of this regulation is to facilitate recycling/reclamation efforts and provide for more efficient, cost effective management of these materials. Wastes managed under these conditions are called Universal Wastes (UWs). In 2005, EPA added to the existing Universal Waste Rule (40 CFR Part 273) a new category for Universal Waste Mercury Containing Equipment. This category includes mercury switches. Virginia adopted the rule, by reference, into our regulations in May, 2006. If mercury switches are collected and managed for recycling/reclamation under the Universal Waste Rule, they are excluded from many of the requirements applicable to hazardous wastes.
During the 2006 Virginia legislative session, Virginia also adopted HB447/SB88 - Mercury switches in motor vehicles. This bill requires removal of mercury switches from end-of-life motor vehicles prior to their demolition. Because many end-of-life vehicles are shredded for scrap metal reclamation, the presence of mercury switches contributes to mercury emissions when scrap steel is smelted for recovery and reforming. The bill authorized DEQ, through the Virginia Waste Management Board, to adopt regulations setting standards for removal and management of mercury switches from end-of-life automobiles. The Virginia Waste Management Board finalized regulations requiring the removal of mercury switches from vehicles in the spring of 2007. The Mercury Switch Regulations are located in 9 VAC 20-200 and can be linked to here.
Because the switches may be managed under universal waste regulations does NOT mean that they are no longer a hazardous waste and can be discarded in a landfill or otherwise improperly stored or disposed. It does mean that as long as they are being handled under the special conditional exclusions for UWs that they are not subject to full hazardous waste requirements. If they are not properly managed under the universal waste regulations, then they will be considered a hazardous waste and the generator is subject to all applicable regulations.
Small-quantity handlers of universal waste
A Small Quantity Handler of Universal Waste is a generator that does not accumulate more than 5,000 kg (approximately 11,000 pounds) of UW at any given time. We anticipate that all auto recycler facilities and end-of-life vehicle handlers will fall into this category. In fact, it is unlikely that the entire quantity of mercury switches collected in one year from all end-of-life vehicles in Virginia will amount to this quantity. If we assume that each vehicle contains an average of 4 switches, each switch contains 1 gram of mercury, and 200,000 vehicles are processed for switch removal each year, that amounts to approximately 1760 lbs of mercury. Even including the switch plastic and metal “bullet” housing containing the mercury, total annual mercury for all of Virginia is unlikely to approach 11,000 pounds.
Although regulatory language may seem complex, the actual UW requirements for those handling mercury switches are simple to meet. The full regulations may be found at 40 CFR Part 273 for general universal waste handler requirements. Virginia DEQ and DMV, in partnership with VARA and ELVS, have established simple guidelines for management of removed switches to ensure efficient recycling.
Mercury switch handling requirements
The general requirements for handling mercury switches, including The Code of Virginia statute requiring switch removal, Title reporting to DMV, and Universal Waste management are listed in simple form below. This is only an instructional summary -- the complete regulatory language for Universal Waste Mercury Switches and the Mercury Switch Regulations are available online in the Virginia Hazardous Waste Management Regulations at 9 VAC 20-60-273 and 9 VAC 20-200.
- Remove (or attempt to remove) switches from automobiles as required by § 46.2-635 of the Code of Virginia. Information distributed by ELVS (also available online) will assist you in locating and removing the switches.
- Report removal (or attempted removal) on DMV Demolisher and Mercury Switch Removal Declaration form (VSA 44A) for submission to DMV per their instructions and guidelines.
- Collect complete switch assemblies or ampoules (also called “bullets” or “pellets”) in the appropriate containers provided.
- Containers are being supplied by our switch collection partner, ELVS.
- Containers must be clearly marked to indicate they contain Universal Waste Switches. ELVS is providing the correct label to attach to their containers. You will need to fill in required information per their instructions.
- Containers must be kept closed except when actually adding or removing switches.
- Immediately clean up any mercury spill/release residues and contaminated materials from broken ampoules and place in an appropriate hazardous waste container.
Spill clean-up residues from broken ampoules may NOT be handled as Universal Waste in the containers provided by ELVS. They will require separate management as a hazardous waste. See DEQ’s Synopsis of Requirements for CESQGs for managing hazardous waste residues, or contact your DEQ Regional Office for further information.
- Ship collected UW switches to the destination facility specified by ELVS within 1 year. You must call ELVS at the number they provide to arrange for container delivery and pick-up.
- Worker Safety/Training – anyone handling switches must be informed of the proper removal, handling, spill/emergency response procedures and safety equipment/decontamination methods. ELVS has information available for distribution and on their website to assist you.
- Records – SQHUWs are not required to keep records for UW shipments. However, we recommended that you keep shipping papers and other documents provided to you to show when you made shipments and the quantities. You should also keep documents showing switch removal procedures and worker training/safety procedures.
If you have any questions about universal waste management or specific regulatory requirements for switch management, please check with your DEQ Regional Office or call 804-698-4000.
Collection Buckets and Transportation Questions
The Environmental Quality Company (EQ):Judie Zabrowski 734- 547-2540
End of Life Vehicle Solutions (ELVS) -- 877.225.ELVS
ELVS Homepage http://www.elvsolutions.org/index.htm
Virginia - DEQ Regional Offices
Virginia - Synopsis of Requirements for Conditionally Exempt Small Quantity Generators (Hazardous Waste spills residue management)
Virginia - Universal Waste Regulations
Virginia – Mercury Switch Legislation
Virginia – Mercury Switch Regulations
9 VAC 20-200