AWA Wins Mercury Victory

The American Watch Association (AWA) in August won an important victory for its member companies in Connecticut that has ramifications in other U.S. states. 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 (www.watchbatteryrecycle.org) to facilitate battery recycling.

“It was close cooperation between watch companies and retailers that produced this victory for all of us,” said AWA’s executive director Toby Collado. 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 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 wasn’t met, and a specific recycling or disposal plan.

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