Thermostats, TRC and Our Elevator Speech
TRC Blog

Thermostats, TRC and Our Elevator Speech

Posted Mar 15, 2018 by Ryan Kiscaden

But what is it that you do?

Most of us have had the experience asking that question (mentally) of someone who just spent five minutes describing themselves and their company, yet the precise definition of the person’s duties or the company’s purpose remained hazy.

Thermostat Recycling Corp. is fortunate that I can distill what we do and explain our mission in a simple sentence: We keep mercury out of the waste stream to protect the environment.

Recently, I had the privilege of writing a somewhat lengthy article that appeared in Strategies magazine, an official publication of the Association of Energy Services Professionals. The article provided an overview of TRC and, more importantly, our efforts to remove mercury containing thermostats. Writing the article provided me with moments to mull over the merits of our previous efforts, reflect on current activities and peer into what the future holds. It’s the tripod of planning that all good business people and forward-looking companies pursue as they embrace anticipated challenges.

I wanted to provide some highlights —the what and how we do it — of the Strategies article, because it will give a more nuanced answer to the question: What do you do?

  • It’s the law. The first efforts to recycle mercury containing thermostats started with the passage of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), Oct. 21, 1976.  It was our nation's primary law governing the disposal of solid and hazardous waste.  The law’s intent was largely to address the increasing problems the nation faced from a growing volume of municipal and industrial waste. Along with RCRA, the Mercury Export Ban Act of 2008 required a reduction in the use of mercury in products and prohibited the reintroduction of mercury back into commerce.  This in effect eliminated the market for mercury containing products such as mercury thermostats, even though their product life cycle was well in decline. This places TRC under government legislation which we must consider in our efforts and to ensure that we remind individuals who conduct thermostat replacements that they operate under a legislative umbrella with financial and liability issues lurking in the background.
  • Expanding our collection players. While HVAC contractors and wholesalers were our entry points for the collection process, we realized that hazardous waste collection sites and thermostat retailers could be valuable partners. It has proven to be true.
  • Money & Liability. We have successfully used a rebate program to propel more activity, especially on the contractor side, and intend to retain this practice.  Unfortunately, the cost to administer the program continues to rise as collections decline.
  • The Smart Thermostat Impact. Falling prices for smart thermostats and utility rebates are more likely to convince homeowners to buy a new thermostat, a replacement that usually falls to a contractor. This is an outside force that was not a consideration when we started, and it is an unexpected benefit to our recycling efforts.
  • It’s a Higher Imperative. After we take a timeout on the issues of legislation, mandates, legal exposure, rebates, contractors and supply chain challenges, there is a bottom-line, irrefutable mandate: We need to keep our environment safe. By adhering to that tenet, our contribution to a safe environment will survive long after we’ve recycled that very last mercury containing thermostat.

If you are unfamiliar with TRC, this blog has hopefully provided clear insight into our activities and mission. To those who already understand what we do and help participate in our mission, it’s always a commendable practice to provide a reminder that we’re still here and mission focused. This way, everyone understands what we do.