A new state law requires manufacturers of thermostats to accept and recycle mercury-containing thermostats at "no cost to consumers," New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Joe Martens announced recently.
Senator Mark Grisanti, chair of the Senate Environmental Conservation Committee, said, "Each year over 300,000 mercury thermostats are removed from walls and almost 99 percent of them are sent to landfills and incinerators. This new collection program will require manufacturers to establish and maintain a collection program that will include attainable statewide collection goals. Diverting mercury from the waste stream will protect our air and water supplies and keep the public safe from exposure.”
“This new law establishes a program to collect and safely dispose of mercury thermostats, which will protect New Yorkers and our environment,” Commissioner Martens said.
Mercury, a toxic metal that liquefies at room temperature, is found in older wall-mounted thermostats. If these break, they can release mercury into the air, causing adverse health effects when inhaled. What's equally bad is when mercury thermostats are discarded into landfills they can break or be incinerated, releasing mercury into the environment.
Mercury attacks the central nervous system. It can cause life-long disability and sometimes death. Because mercury is volatile and makes a biotransformation, mercury, unique among environmental toxicants, spreads in every direction.
Beginning July 1, 2014, thermostat manufacturers are required to establish a collection, transportation, recycling, disposal and management system of out-of-service mercury thermostats, and also educate consumers, thermostat wholesalers, contractors and contractor associations regarding collecting old mercury thermostats.
The goal for 2015 is to collect 15,500 of these old out-of-service mercury thermostats.
Under the new law, thermostat manufacturers must offer containers and become a collection site to thermostat retailers, contractors and government authorities that request one.
There will be no "direct" cost to participate in the program; consumers will not be charged a fee for disposing of mercury thermostats. Of course the cost will be passed on in the form of higher thermostat prices.