Like most Canadians, you probably recycle your paper waste and compost your kitchen scraps. But when it comes to disposing of your thermostat, whether mercury-containing or electronic, chances are you're tempted to throw it out with the rest of your garbage. In fact, you may not even realize that the thermostat hanging on your wall could contain toxic mercury (Hg).
If so, there are a few things you should know, like the potential hazards of having a mercury thermostat in your home and in the landfill, and how to safely and responsibly recycle the thermostat when the time comes to replace it.
Does my thermostat contain mercury?
To check if your thermostat contains mercury, remove the front plate and look inside (often toward the base of the unit). If you see a small glass vial or ampoule (switch) with a silvery liquid inside, it contains mercury.
Mercury thermostats were the standard for nearly 200 years, however they were last manufactured in the early 2000s. Newer digital and programmable electronic thermostats are designed to operate without mercury, while older thermostats can have as many as four (4) mercury switches, each containing up to 2.5 grams of mercury.
What are the hazards associated with mercury in thermostats?
It takes only 1 gram of mercury to contaminate an eight-hectare lake to the point of making the inhabiting fish unsafe for consumption for a year, due to this heavy metal's persistent, bioaccumulative and neurotoxic properties.
Direct exposure to mercury can cause neurological damage, behavioural problems, kidney, lung and digestive tract diseases and complications, which can prove fatal. Indirect mercury exposure, for example through eating contaminated fish, is particularly dangerous for expectant mothers and young children, inhibiting development of the brain and nervous system.
How do I safely dispose of my old thermostat?
Whether you're getting rid of an old mercury-containing or electronic thermostat, the Thermostat Recovery Program (TRP) offers a fast, safe and easy option for responsible thermostat recycling Canada-wide!
The TRP has safely recovered and recycled over 200,000 thermostats and diverted over 700 kilograms of mercury from landfill since it's 2006 inception.
Join the 1,700+ participating collection sites across Canada to do your part in keeping mercury thermostats out of our waste stream!
The TRP offers 3 participation options:
1. Drop It Off: Find a participating TRP Public Drop Off Location near you to dispose of your thermostats for safe recycling
Find one near you: PUBLIC DROP OFF LOCATIONS
2. Send It Back: Send your thermostats to our licensed recycling facility on a one-time basis* using a 5L personal TRP collection pail (holding around 5 thermostats) and prepaid shipping label from Purolator
*When registering, be sure to select List as Send it Back as your Participant Option!
3. Collect It: Collect thermostats at your pace using a 20L TRP collection pail (holding 60-70 thermostats) and prepaid shipping label from Purolator, with the option to be listed on our website as a Public Drop Off Location*
*When registering, be sure to select List as Drop Off Location as your Participant Option!
Click the green box below and fill out our short registration form:
REGISTER WITH THE TRP!
Switching to newer, programmable thermostats is not only safer for your health and the health of the environment, but also reduces energy consumption and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
With the TRP, you can do your part in ensuring mercury doesn’t end up in landfill; as well as ensuring the other thermostat components such as the plastics and metals are recycled responsibly.
For more information, please visit our FAQ page or contact the TRP Team.
The Thermostat Recovery Program (TRP) is fully administered by the Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Institute of Canada (HRAI) and supported by the Canadian Institute of Plumbing and Heating (CIPH). It also works closely with HVAC and plumbing contractors and wholesalers, as well as municipalities, regional districts, First Nation communities, and recycling depots.
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