TRC Blog

A Simple Question to Help Keep Mercury out of Vermont’s Environment

Posted Oct 23, 2015

Are you aware that many thermostats manufactured prior to 2006 contain mercury? Or that a mercury thermostat contains at least 1,000 times more mercury than today’s standard compact fluorescent light bulb (CFL)?  Did you know that mercury thermostats are likely the largest remaining reservoir of mercury in homes today, and thousands end up in the trash each year?   

In its various forms mercury can be harmful to human health and the environment.  When mercury from thermostats ends up in the trash, it has been proven to trickle into landfills and waste incinerators, from which the mercury may enter our rivers, lakes and streams. In a natural environment, it converts into an even more toxic form that enters plants and animals in the food chain.  And while thermostats are not a significant source of mercury pollution, they should be an easy one to control.

In 2008, mercury thermostat collection legislation was passed in Vermont requiring thermostat manufactures to establish collection programs for contractor and consumer-generated mercury thermostats and providing a financial incentive of $5.00 for turning in a mercury thermostat for recycling. Recycling data nationwide suggests that in spite of laws banning the disposal of mercury thermostats (as in Vermont), some contractors or their employees as well as homeowners continue to discard thermostats containing mercury into the trash. In Vermont, there is a free and universally accessible recycling program for mercury thermostats that also offers a $5.00 incentive payment.

With fall’s arrival it’s likely your heating contractor will be at your home to service your furnace or boiler for an annual system maintenance check or as homeowners, you might be doing this same winter preparation yourself. 

If you think your thermostat may contain mercury, ask your heating technician. If it does, ask them to swap it out and properly recycle it.

Hopefully you will like the answer.  However, if you don’t like the answer, let the technician know that Vermont has a law to help them properly dispose of any thermostats they remove and tell them there is a $5.00 incentive! New programmable thermostats can save you money on your heating bills.

While one inquiry from a customer may seem insignificant, the more contractors that hear about the free recycling options and that this is an issue you care about, the better. And if you decide to upgrade your thermostat yourself, make sure you swap out your old mercury one for the $5.00 incentive available at participating Household Hazardous Waste facilities or retail hardware stores throughout the state. For a list of thermostat collection locations for contractors and homeowners go to www.mercvt.org or call (802) 822-5736.

So don’t forget to ask the question. Ensure that your HVAC contractor and/or you are doing the right thing for Vermont’s environment by recycling every mercury thermostat, every time.