Vehicle brakes are a major source of copper in the environment, especially in urban areas. An estimated 250,000 pounds of copper enters Washington's waters each year from brake pads, 130,000 pounds of that going into Puget Sound.
Under the Better Brakes Law, manufacturers will reduce copper levels below 5 percent by 2021 and cut copper below 0.5 percent by 2025. Manufacturers report that they expect to beat those dates, without compromising on performance or quality. Results Washington is tracking our progress toward reducing copper in brake pads.
John Stark, director of the Washington Stormwater Center, said cutting that source of copper will make a difference for salmon.
“Reducing copper levels won’t singlehandedly fix the challenges facing salmon in Puget Sound, but it will remove one of the barriers to their recovery,” Stark said.
But why wait until 2025? For many vehicles, brake pads are already available that meet either the 5 percent or 0.5 percent standard.
If you're buying brake pads or shoes for your car or truck, look at the packaging. Newly manufactured brakes will have a leaf illustration indicating which standard they meet - the more leafs filled in, the more environmentally friendly the brakes are: