Pennsylvania plans for mercury thermostats

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has approved two plans to collect and recycle mercury thermostats, which will reduce the amount of mercury released into the environment. The plans are part of the new Mercury-Free Thermostat Act which requires the recycling of out-of-service mercury thermostats. The law will take effect December 8.

A single thermostat contains approximately four grams of mercury. The United States Environmental Protection Agency estimates that, each year, six to eight tons of mercury ends up in solid waste facilities and up to two tons are released into the air.

Under the new law, manufacturers who have sold mercury thermostats in Pennsylvania must collect and recycle waste mercury thermostats at no cost to contractors and homeowners. Wholesalers located in Pennsylvania must serve as collection sites for the thermostats. The law also requires retailers and contractors to either participate as collection points or provide notice to customers that recycling of mercury thermostats is required by law and identify locations of nearby collection points.

DEP received two plans for manufacturers to establish collection and recycling programs in Pennsylvania. The plans were submitted by the Thermostat Recycling Corporation (TRC) of Arlington, Virginia and EWC Controls Inc. of Englishtown, New Jersey. TRC is a nonprofit organization that currently represents 29 manufacturers nationwide that have distributed over 65 brands of mercury thermostats. TRC sponsored collection sites will accept all brands of mercury thermostats. EWC Controls sold thermostats nationwide under its brand name through wholesale operations from 1989 to 2007. This collection and recycling program is for EWC Controls brand name thermostats only. Both companies are voluntarily collecting thermostats in advance of the law’s effective date in December.