AWA wins mercury victory

The American Watch Association in August won an important victory for its member companies in Connecticut—a victory that has ramifications in other U.S. states as well. Specifically, AWA members are now exempt from creating and submitting detailed plans to collect and recycle used button-cell batteries, under state overview, from watches sold in Connecticut. Button-cell batteries contain trace amounts of mercury to prevent “gassing” and corrosion of the battery.

AWA worked closely with the Connecticut Jewelers Association and Jewelers of America to convince state officials that the watch industry already recycles used button-cell batteries because of their silver content. AWA is also developing a Web site to facilitate battery recycling at www.watchbatteryrecycle.org.

“It was close cooperation between watch companies and retailers that produced this victory for all of us,” said AWA’s executive director Toby Collado on Aug. 7. He also noted, “We’re informed that Connecticut rejected several other industries’ requests for exemptions. Apparently, watches are the only industry to win approval.” Watch companies that aren’t AWA members must seek exemptions on their own, because the law applies to all companies.

Other states with anti-mercury measures (e.g., Maine, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island) are expected to follow Connecticut’s lead in allowing the exemption. Connecticut officials intend to persuade their counterparts in other states that the watch industry will coax other industries to collect and recycle their used batteries.

If AWA hadn’t won the exemption, its member watch companies would have had to submit a plan to the Connecticut’s Commissioner of Environmental Protection that “reasonably enables the collection” of used button-cell batteries. Such a collection plan must include a “public education program”; a “targeted capture rate”; specifications for implementing and financing the collection system; documentation of the willingness of all parties involved to implement it; a description of “performance measures to be utilized”; a description of additional steps if the target capture rate isn’t met; and a specific recycling or disposal plan.

Retailers with information about battery recycling programs in their states as asked to contact AWA’s Toby Collado via e-mail: egcollado@earthlink.net or fax (703) 759-1639.