Calif., Pa. Also Pass Thermostat Recycling Laws

California and Pennsylvania recently joined four other states in passing comprehensive laws enforcing the proper collection and recycling of mercury-containing thermostats, according to an Oct. 20 press release.

These new state laws are based on legislation developed by the Product Stewardship Institute (PSI) with input from thermostat manufacturers, heating and cooling contractors and wholesalers, retailers, environmental groups, and government officials. PSI's model shares responsibility for safe thermostat recycling among all these groups and provides a menu of options from which states can choose.

"While thermostat manufacturers have the most responsibility to reduce the toxicity of their products and remove them from the waste stream, other stakeholders, including consumers, have key roles in thermostat collection and recycling," said Scott Cassel, PSI's executive director. "Mercury is one of the biggest health hazards found in everyday household products, and the proper recycling of these products is essential to protecting the environment."

Many thermostats currently in use contain mercury, a naturally occurring toxin that can affect the nervous system. Although no mercury is released when these products are intact, when disposed of in an improper fashion, they can cause mercury to be released into the environment. While sales of mercury-containing thermostats are on the decline as manufacturers have shifted production to non-mercury digital thermostats, there are still an estimated 50 million mercury-containing thermostats in homes throughout the United States.

The nation's first comprehensive thermostat law was enacted in 2006 in Maine, and was mediated by PSI among government, industry, and environmental stakeholders. This pioneering law was followed by PSI's development of a more inclusive model that was used by innovative state and local leaders to pass subsequent laws in Iowa, New Hampshire, and Vermont.

"PSI congratulates the state legislatures of California and Pennsylvania, as well as the efforts of the California Product Stewardship Council, Sierra Club, and the Thermostat Recycling Corporation (TRC) for their diligence in negotiating shared responsibility thermostat laws," said Jennifer Holliday, PSI board member and key negotiator of Vermont's thermostat law. "Through PSI's efforts nationally, as well as state and local efforts and the work of TRC, thermostat collection locations have increased and overall participation is on the rise. All six states with comprehensive thermostat legislation are members of PSI and clearly support the concept of producer responsibility."

Maine and Vermont include performance goals for thermostat recycling in their laws, as well as financial incentives for contractors and homeowners to encourage recycling. California and Iowa's thermostat laws require their state environmental agencies to develop the performance goals.

For a comparison of state mercury thermostat laws, visit State Thermostat Legislation Comparison.

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