Feeling the Heat

California passes thermostat recycling legislation

California has passed legislation forcing thermostat manufacturers and brand owners to establish collection and recycling programs for mercury-added thermostats. The law, effective in January 2009, requires collection and recycling efforts to begin by July 2009.

"[This new law] will increase the number of collection points and make recycling more convenient," said Heidi Sanborn, executive director of the California Product Stewardship Council (CPSC), in a press release. "Having the producers fund and manage the collection system is in line with the overall framework for an Extended Producer Responsibility system adopted by the California Integrated Waste Management Board in January 2008 and the recommendation of the Green Chemistry Report from the University of California Centers for Occupational and Environmental Health."

The new law, A.B. 2347, also requires manufacturers and brand owners to conduct outreach efforts to educate the public about the dangers posed by mercury-added thermostats. Further, it calls for them to develop a survey for state contractors to calculate how many mercury-added thermostats still are being used. In 2006, the state banned the sale of mercury-added thermostats.

"Most California consumers want to do the right thing, but until now they have not had the information or opportunity to recycle mercury thermostats, many of which contain three grams of mercury," said Bill Magavern, director of Sierra Club California, in a press release.

The California Department of Toxic Substances Control reports that less than 5 percent of mercury-added thermostats removed from buildings in the state are turned in to the Thermostat Recycling Corp. collection program, which was established in 1998 by thermostat makers General Electric, Honeywell and White Rodgers.