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Thermostat Recycling

On July 1, 2008, the State of Illinois joined several other states in prohibiting the sale and distribution of new mercury-switch thermostats that are used to activate heating and cooling equipment in buildings. In 2010, the Mercury Thermostat Collection Act was passed, requiring thermostat manufactures to establish collection programs for recycling mercury-switch thermostats when they are taken out of service. The purpose of these two state laws is to keep mercury from entering the environment. Wall-mounted mercury-switch thermostats are a major source of mercury in the solid waste stream. The thermostats may be broken when disposed of by traditional methods, allowing the mercury to be released into the air and eventually settling into water or onto land.

The key provisions of the mercury switch collection law include:

  • Bans the disposal of mercury-switch thermostats in solid waste intended for disposal in a sanitary landfill, beginning July 1, 2011.
  • Requires heating, ventilation and cooling (HVAC) contractors or service technicians to recycle mercury-switch thermostats that are taken out of service, beginning July 1, 2011.
  • Requires thermostat wholesalers (typically heating, plumbing and electrical supply businesses) to act as a collection point for out-of-service mercury thermostats, beginning July 1, 2011. Thermostat wholesalers not participating in the program are prohibited from selling or distributing thermostats.
  • Requires thermostat manufacturers to make collection containers available to all thermostat wholesalers and qualified contractors. Retailers and qualified local government authorities may also request a collection container. Requires thermostat manufacturers to pay for the transportation of the collected mercury-switch thermostats to an appropriate recycling facility.
  • Requires thermostat manufacturers to develop and distribute educational materials to help make wholesalers and HVAC contractors aware of the requirements of the law.
  • Requires Illinois EPA to conduct educational outreach, create an Internet site and report on the progress of the mercury-switch thermostat collection efforts in the state.
  • Establishes goals for the collection of mercury-switch thermostats in the first four years of the program. Provides IEPA with authority for setting the collection goals for 2015 to 2020, and require updates to the collection programs if the goals are not achieved. The mercury thermostat collection program sunsets on January 1, 2021.
  • Includes penalties for thermostat manufacturers, thermostat wholesalers and HVAC contractors that do not meet the requirements of the law.
  • Requires Illinois EPA to maintain on its website a report on the progress towards achieving the statewide collection goals.

The collection programs established by the thermostat manufacturers under the law must be designed to collectively achieve the following statewide goals.

Year Statewide Collection Goals Thermostats Collected Annual Report
2011 5,000 7,229 1 2011 TRC Annual Report
2012 15,000 13,061 2 2012 TRC Annual Report
2013 15,000 12,479 3 2013 TRC Annual Report
2014 15,000 15,266 4 2014 TRC Annual Report
2015 22,500 10,193 5 2015 TRC Annual Report
2016 25,000 9,896 6 2016 TRC Annual Report
2017 30,000 10,671 7 2017 TRC Annual Report
2018 32,500    
2019 37,500    
2020 40,000    

1An additional 910 loose mercury switches or "bulbs" were collected in 2011.

2An additional 2,452 loose mercury switches or "bulbs" were collected in 2012.

3An additional 757 loose mercury switches or "bulbs" were collected in 2013.

4An additional 1,392 loose mercury switches or "bulbs" were collected in 2014.

5An additional 1,586 loose mercury switches or "bulbs" were collected in 2015.

6An additional 1,086 loose mercury switches or "bulbs" were collected in 2016.

7An additional 1,069 loose mercury switches or "bulbs" were collected in 2017.

The mercury switch collection law includes requirements for those involved with the manufacture, regulation, sale and installation of mercury-switch thermostats.

For a current list of thermostat collection sites, visit the Thermostat Recycling Corporation website. Thermostat retailers and qualified units of local governments are not required to be collection locations for mercury-switch thermostats, but can be one if they so desire. Qualified units of local government include household hazardous waste facilities, solid waste management agencies, environmental management agencies and departments of public health can be collection locations. Information on how to become a collection site is available on the Thermostat Recycling Corporation website.