Safe Mercury Thermostat Disposal for California Contractors
Are you a professional contractor who deals with mercury thermostats?
Follow the law and keep your community safe by disposing of them properly!
It’s illegal in the state of California to throw out a mercury thermostat with your regular trash. There is a fine of up to $70,000 for each mercury thermostat that is not recycled. Make sure you are following the law by properly recycling any mercury thermostats you dispose of in your line of work.
How to Legally Dispose of a Mercury Thermostat
Order a Free Recycling Container
As a Californian contractor, you are eligible for a free recycling container. If you come across multiple mercury thermostats in your line of work that need recycling, you should order a free collection container. Currently, 97 professional contractors in California have utilized our free collection containers to recycle mercury thermostats!
Steps to Collecting Mercury Thermostats:
- Submit a bin or pail request form to Thermostat Care team by completing a form and emailing it to ContainerRequests@ThermostatCare.org.
- Thermostat Care team processes request and prepares to ship your bin or pail to your location.
- The requested bin or pail, along with related materials (like guidelines on how to properly package mercury thermostats and care for the bin or pail) will be sent to your location. Please note that the actual bin or pail will have TRC (Thermostat Recycling Corporation) branding, but this is still a part of the Thermostat Care program. If you do not receive your container within 1 month, please contact ContainerRequests@ThermostatCare.org to inquire about the status of your container.
- Collect mercury thermostats! DO NOT remove the mercury ampule from the thermostat. Place the entire thermostat into a sealable bag in the collection container. Broken thermostats will not be accepted at drop-off locations.
- The Thermostat Care team will check in to make sure your bin or pail arrived and to ensure you and your staff are aware of universal waste regulations as they pertain to mercury thermostats.
- Schedule a FedEx Ground pickup and use the pre-made return address label to safely send back your bin or pail! After the thermostats are processed, you will be sent back the container to collect additional thermostats. If you do not receive another container within 2 months, please contact info@ThermostatCare.org or contact ContainerRequests@ThermostatCare.org if you don’t want to wait for your replacement container.
Find Your Nearest Drop-off Location
Thermostat Care establishes qualified mercury thermostat drop-off locations across California. This option is best for you if you have fewer than 3 mercury thermostats a year to dispose of. (If you have more, please consider ordering your own recycling container.) Place each thermostat in its own sealed, clear plastic bag, find your nearest drop-off location, and dispose of the thermostats at that location.
The following downloadable materials are available to help share more information about safe, proper mercury thermostat recycling:
- ThermostatCare program overview (PDF)
- Why it’s important to recycle a mercury thermostat (PDF) (additional languages)
- How to prepare a thermostat for recycling or deal with a broken thermostat (PDF)
- If your mercury thermostat breaks, you could be in danger of a mercury spill. Contact your local health authority and/or visit the EPA website to learn how to handle a mercury spill.
- For additional information, visit the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC)’s Handling and Disposal of Mercury Waste Fact Sheet
Commonly Asked Questions
How do I know if I come across a mercury thermostat?
To determine if your thermostat contains mercury, inspect the thermostat to see if it contains a lever or dial to control the temperature. Thermostats with this feature typically contain mercury. Homes or buildings whose HVAC systems haven’t been updated since the early 2000s. Areas of the state that may be lower income and therefore not updating their HVAC systems regularly or in the past decade.
Why do mercury thermostats require special disposal?
In normal use, mercury-containing thermostats are safe and do not expose people to mercury. However, if mercury thermostats are improperly handled or disposed of, the glass tube of liquid mercury may break, causing the mercury to vaporize. This can cause serious health problems – particularly among children and pregnant women. Mercury-containing thermostats that are not disposed of at a hazardous waste collection site can expose sanitation workers, soil and groundwater to toxic mercury contamination. So, improper care and disposal of mercury-containing thermostats are dangerous to both public and environmental health.
What are the health risks of being exposed to mercury?
Mercury is toxic and exposure even in small amounts may cause serious health problems. Breathing mercury vapors can harm the nervous system, lungs and kidneys. Mercury vapors can also pass easily from the lungs to the bloodstream. Children under 14 are more sensitive to mercury than adults because of their developing brains and nervous systems – and may be irreversibly damaged by it. Mothers who are exposed to mercury and breast-feed may also expose their infant children through their milk.
What are the consequences of throwing a mercury thermostat in the trash?
Failure to properly dispose of mercury-containing thermostats can result in a $70,000 fine.
Any questions? Email Info@ThermostatCare.org