Homeowners and other non-professionals account for up to 25% of discarded mercury thermostats, and their importance is growing as large retailers assume a larger market share of replacement thermostat sales. EPA estimates that there are 63 million mercury thermostats in the residential sector, and the U.S. Government estimates that there are 230 tons of mercury in thermostats currently in use, of which about 57.5 tons come from residential units. This project will evaluate the effectiveness of collecting thermostats directly at household hazardous waste (HHW) facilities and recycling them through the TRC program. TRC will cover the full cost of transporting and recycling mercury switch thermostats, once the thermostats reach the HHW collection locations.
Dialogue stakeholders agreed to test the effectiveness of this model in several states over a six-month period. This project was launched in May 2006 and involved the collection of thermostats at HHW facilities in five states (Illinois, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Washington State, and Florida) through the end of December. The transportation for subsequent shipping/recycling of the thermostats was conducted as part of the TRC program.
Goals and Objectives
|1)||Develop criteria to determine which HHW facilities can participate directly in the TRC program.|
|2)||Test the criteria by conducting pilot collections at HHW facilities meeting proposed criteria.|
|3)||Evaluate the degree to which collection at HHW facilities is effective, and can be conducted safely based on the proposed criteria.|
|4)||Promote the project among residents served by the HHW facilities, as well as promoting projects to a wider audience.|
PSI was responsible for coordinating all pilot project participants, including TRC, state agencies, and pilot HHW facilities. Prior to the pilot kick-off, PSI convened work group conference calls to develop the criteria for selecting HHW facilities and to start and promote the pilot. PSI facilitated conference calls to monitor progress and trouble shoot any issues that arise. It also developed a database for states to gather information from HHW locations at the completion of the pilot. PSI is currently working with TRC to expand the pilot nationally.
The design of the project started in January 2006, and collections began in May 2006. The pilot ran through the end of December 2006 in Illinois, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Washington, and Florida at approximately 50 sites determined by state officials. Under the pilot, permanent HHW collection facilities and short-term collection events were outfitted with special bins to accept mercury thermostats. Staff at these facilities were been trained in the safe sorting and handling of these devices, which were transported by common carrier to Honeywell's manufacturing facility in Minnesota. Honeywell staff removed the ampoule containing mercury from each thermostat and place it in a 55-gallon drum. When full, the drums were shipped to Bethlehem Apparatus in Pennsylvania, where the mercury was extracted from the ampoules and recycled. As part of another PSI project, a multi-stakeholder workgroup will discuss the significant issue of retiring mercury (ensuring that the mercury removed from collected products does not re-enter the waste stream by being put back into new products). Project stakeholders began evaluating the pilot in January, and are currently providing recommendations for program expansion.
Based on the success of the pilot, TRC has turned the pilot project into a full-blown program, and has rolled it out nationally with PSI. This initiative will save communities across the country hundreds of thousands of dollars in mercury thermostat management costs. HHW facilities interested in implementing the collection program can refer to the HHW Facility Instruction Packet.
Interested in learning more about, or participating in, PSI's mercury thermostat recycling projects? Contact Scott Cassel at PSI.