Illinois begins mercury thermostat collection
The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency
(IEPA) director Doug Scott announced a new initiative to expand
the collection and recycling of climate control thermostats
that contain mercury switches.
The new collection initiative will expand
the availability of current recycling opportunities for mercury
thermostats. Long-term household hazardous waste collection
sites in both Rockford and Naperville have agreed to collect
and recycle mercury thermostats through an industry take-back
program. This will provide two drop-off locations in Northern
Illinois for homeowners or “do-it-yourselfers” that
purchase replacement thermostats.
The Product Stewardship Institute, Inc. (PSI),
a national organization that seeks to reduce environmental impacts
from consumer product and the Thermostat Recycling Corp. (TRC),
a non-profit entity created by Honeywell, White-Rodgers and
General Electric, will administer the five-state pilot project.
The pilot will run through the end of the year in Illinois,
Minnesota, Wisconsin, Washington State, and Florida.
Until now, the take-back program has only
been available to thermostat wholesalers. Heating, ventilation
and air-conditioning (HVAC) contractors can drop off mercury
thermostats at participating wholesaler locations when they
purchase new thermostats or other supplies. The new initiative
will allow homeowners to recycle thermostats that they replace
on their own by taking them to a long-term household hazardous
waste facility. TRC will provide the containers and pay for
shipping costs to a commercial mercury recovery facility.
The Illinois EPA estimates that somewhere
between 88,000 and 132,000 mercury thermostats are disposed
of annually in Illinois. Forty-four thermostat wholesale stores
are participating in the industry take-back program. In 2004,
these wholesalers collected over 5,000 mercury thermostats for
recycling throughout the state.
The typical mercury thermostat contains three
grams of mercury that can be released into the environment if
the thermostat is broken or disposed of improperly. The mercury
is used as a component of a mechanical tilt switch, which activates
the heating and cooling equipment connected to the thermostat.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency has estimated
that 63 million mercury-containing thermostats are in use within
the United States, containing approximately 230 tons of mercury.
Governor Blagojevich announced plans to aggressively
cut mercury emissions from Illinois power plants by 90 percent
by mid 2009. These state standards will go far beyond the federal
Clean Air Mercury Rule (CAMR) restrictions adopted last spring
and would make Illinois a national leader in efforts to reduce
toxic emissions into the environment. The proposed rules were
filed March 14th with the Illinois Pollution Control Board.
For information on the program, visit www.epa.state.il.us.