When it comes to collecting mercury thermostats for recycling in the US, Chittenden County, VT is second to none.
According to a recent report from the Thermostat Recycling Corporation (TRC), between 2012 and 2016, Chittenden County residents dropped off 2,280 units in the collection program, just ahead of Hennepin County, MN, which collected 2,274 thermostats. The margin grows wider when put in per capita terms: Chittenden County has just over 160,000 residents, while Hennepin County is home to 1.5 million.
Chittenden Solid Waste District (CSWD), the municipality that governs solid waste for the 18 towns and cities in the county, collects mercury thermostats at Drop-Off Centers and the Environmental Depot, their household hazardous waste collection facility. Customers receive a $5 rebate coupon in exchange for their thermostats.
Jen Holliday, CSWD’s Compliance Program and Product Stewardship Manager, attributes the program’s success to multiple factors. “In addition to a high level of conscientiousness among Vermonters, our success has been the product of quality education and outreach efforts, convenient collection options for residents, and outstanding staff members engaging with the public at our facilities.”
“Chittenden County is an example of what a community can do to recycle mercury thermostats successfully,” said Ryan Kiscaden, Executive Director, TRC. “When you have a committed program, staff that understands the recycling process, and an informed and dedicated public that participates in recycling efforts, it demonstrates why they’re No. 1.”
In 2008, Vermont enacted the country’s second Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) law targeting mercury thermostats. EPR legislation extends the manufacturer’s responsibility for its product to post-consumer management of that product and its packaging, shifting costs upstream and away from the public sector. In the past 10 years, Vermont also passed EPR legislation for mercury automobile switches, electronic waste, mercury-containing lamps, paint, and alkaline/primary batteries.