A bill is making its way through the Massachusetts Legislature that mandates the recycling of mercury-containing thermostats. Some critics claim the measure doesn’t go far enough. Though they have been banned for sale in Massachusetts since 2006, millions of homes and offices across the Baystate still use old fashioned-style mostly circular thermostats. Elizabeth Saunders says while they are highly reliable – lasting for decades – they are also highly toxic if not disposed of properly.
“If you take the cover off of one of those, you’ll see a little glass ampoule inside that contains usually 3 to 5 grams of mercury.”
Last week, the State Senate unanimously passed a measure that requires contractors to recycle the thermostats and wholesalers to accept them at collection centers. But a report by the environmental advocacy group Clean Water Action claims the measure is not going to get the job done. Saunders, who directs the group’s Massachusetts office, says of the ten states with similar recycling programs, only Vermont and Maine were considered effective because they required manufacturers to pay a $5 rebate to contractors and homeowners who returned a thermostat. Something, she says, is not included in the bill on Beacon Hill.
“The states that have a law that requires thermostat collection but don’t include that financial incentive really don’t do that much better than the states that don’t have any collection at all.”
But State Senator Marc Pacheco of Taunton, who authored the bill, says recycling legislation has been long overdue and, while the measure may not be perfect, it is a good start.
“We can work on that perfect bill, but let us not let another year go by where we don’t have a mandatory program for recycling.”
The measure is now before the House.