The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the automotive industry and the states signed an agreement to reduce the use of copper and other materials in motor vehicle brake pads. The Copper-Free Brake Initiative calls for cutting copper in brake pads to less than 5 percent by 2021 and 0.5 percent by 2025. This voluntary initiative also calls for cutting the amount of mercury, lead, cadmium, asbestiform fibers and chromium-6 salts in motor vehicle brake pads. These steps will decrease runoff of these materials from roads into the nation’s streams, rivers and lakes, where these materials can harm fish, amphibians and plants.

By the Numbers

Source: Direct Metals Recycling

California and Washington have already passed requirements to reduce these materials in brake pads. Prior to their enactment, dust from vehicular braking released an estimated 1.3 million pounds of copper into California’s environment in 2010 and about 250,000 pounds into Washington’s environment in 2011. Estimates for California show copper in urban runoff down as much as 61 percent thanks to changes in brake pad composition.

“EPA is proud to partner with the automotive industry and the states to reduce the use of copper in motor vehicle brake pads, which means less of this material running off our roads and into our nation’s waterways,” said Stan Meiburg, acting deputy administrator for EPA. “The environment and public health in our country will benefit from this type of collaboration between the public and private sector.”

“This historic MOU will provide the motor vehicle industry with consistent copper reduction guidelines and eliminate the potential for disparate state regulations,” said Steve Handschuh, president and CEO of the Motor and Equipment Manufacturers Association. “This has been a proactive, collaborative effort by regulatory agencies, states and the motor vehicle industry to reduce copper in U.S. streams, rivers and waterways.”

“ECOS is proud to be part of an agreement that will make a meaningful contribution to improved water quality across the nation,” said Robert J. Martineau, Jr., president of the Environmental Council of the States and commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation. “This effort shows how states, the federal government and industries can work together to develop innovative, non-regulatory ways to reduce pollution.”

This initiative includes:

Education and outreach to bring about the nationwide reduction in brake pads of copper and the other materials.

Testing friction materials and constituents for alternatives.

Marking and labeling friction material packaging and product.

Providing reporting registrars’ and agents’ contact information to manufacturers, suppliers and other industry entities.

Working towards achieving the goals in the Copper-Free Brake Initiative within specified timeframes.

In addition to EPA and the Environmental Council of the States, eight industry groups signed the initiative:

Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association; Automotive Aftermarket Suppliers Association; Brake Manufacturers Council; Heavy Duty Manufacturers Association; Auto Care Association; Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers; Association of Global Automakers, Inc.; and the Truck and Engine Manufacturers Association.

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