A manufacturer-run program for collecting mercury thermostats is failing to keep the toxic heavy metal out of the trash — and the environment— in most states, according to a report released by the Multi-State Mercury Products Campaign and the Product Stewardship Institute.
“Turning up the Heat II” estimates that, at most, the industry-recycling program has captured eight percent of mercury thermostats coming out of service in the past decade. This has resulted in the disposal of over 50 tons of mercury into the environment.
Mercury-containing thermostats are a significant source of preventable mercury pollution. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has conservatively estimated that two to three million thermostats come out of service each year nationally, amounting to seven to 10 tons of mercury annually. Each thermostat contains an average of four grams of mercury.
The study used data from the annual report of the Thermostat Recycling Corp., Alexandria, Va., a voluntary program created by manufacturers, to estimate the thermostat collection rates per capita for each state in 2009 through 2011. Results showed that TRC collected only 5.8 to 8 percent of the mercury thermostats coming out of service from 2002 to 2011.
In addition, of the 10 states with laws requiring mercury thermostat collection, only two — Maine and Vermont — had programs that were significantly more effective than states with no program at all.