How to Recycle Mercury Thermostats

Thermostats come in many forms. Ones with dials or a lever or made before 2006 likely contain mercury.

Thermostats with dials, a lever or made before 2006 likely contain mercury.

Do you have an old thermostat at home with a dial or a lever that looks like the one pictured on the left? Then most likely you have a thermostat that contains mercury. Many thermostats manufactured before 2006 contain mercury. This thermostat is perfectly safe to use, as the mercury is usually contained in a glass tube. But if you decide to change your thermostat to a new digital or programmable model, disposing of the old thermostat should be done safely.

Mercury is a dangerous neurotoxin that doesn’t break down in the environment. Mercury can be released into the atmosphere and can settle into waterways where it can convert into methyl-mercury and impact fish and humans.

Mercury thermostats contain about 3 grams of mercury. Although California banned the sale of new thermostats containing mercury starting in January 2006, they are still found in many homes, apartments and businesses.

In 2008, California passed the Mercury Thermostat Collection Act, which required thermostat manufacturers to set up a convenient collection and recycling program for unwanted mercury-containing thermostats for consumers and businesses. This was the first law in California to use a concept called extended producer responsibility (EPR) requiring manufacturers to take responsibility for managing their product from creation to disposal/recycling.

Under the law, heating and air conditioning wholesalers must also accept mercury thermostats from the public free-of-charge, and contractors who remove mercury thermostats must recycle them. So what does this mean for you? If you’re a consumer or business in San Mateo County with a mercury thermostat to get rid of, you have seven locations in San Mateo County to easily dispose of them!

Check out the Thermostat Recycling Corporation website to find a location near you. Remember to recycle that old thermostat, and the environment will thank you!

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