New Battery Rules Could Leave Jewelers “Stuck”

Industry groups are hoping to postpone bans on mercury-added button-cell batteries, which have been used in watches.

Maine, Rhode Island, and Connecticut have all enacted legislation that would bar mercury-added batteries effective July 1, 2011. Maine, however, recently pushed the deadline to Jan. 1, 2012, and the American Watch Association and Jewelers of America are hoping the other states will follow suit. The two groups say the states need to consider batteries that are already “in the pipeline.”

“The concern is that retailers in these states are going to get stuck with a bunch of perfectly harmless batteries,” said Emilio G. “Toby” Collado, executive director of the American Watch Association. “Nobody is saying there shouldn’t be a ban. No one wants mercury in their batteries.” Many retailers are still stocking watches with the old batteries, Collado said, and it could be difficult to remove them from some of the high-end timepieces. “We say let them use them at least through the end of December.” He also argued that the earthquake and tsunami in Japan disrupted supplies of mercury-free batteries to watch companies.

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