The stakes for failure to properly dispose of mercury thermostats just got quite a bit higher in the state of California. Doubling down on a law already in place on disposal and recycling mercury thermostats enacted over ten years ago, the legislature recently added language which now raises the maximum penalty for mishandling the hazardous waste from $25,000 to $70,000, and the fines can be assessed for each separate violation, for continuing violations, and for each day that the violation continues.
This is nothing new for California residents and resident companies, who have long been on notice that recycling mercury thermostats isn’t a lifestyle choice, but is a law enforced with the risk of substantial consequences for failure to comply.
Back in 2006, California law banned the sale of new mercury-added thermostats and also banned the disposal of mercury-added thermostats in the trash. Following shortly thereafter, the Mercury Thermostat Collection Act of 2008 required manufacturers to establish a no-cost collection and recycling program for out of service mercury-added thermostats.
Because California law treats mercury thermostats as hazardous waste, disposing them in the trash is a violation of state’s hazardous waste law. With that, enter sizeable civil penalties and the hope (at least by the state) that there will be some egregious violations in order to make examples of what happens in the wake of failure to comply.
The good news for ACCA members is that we have had a long-term relationship the manufacturers’ recycling program, TRC. Contractors can safely dispose of mercury thermostats at any HVAC wholesaler branch location in California for free.
TRC also collects thermostats at no-cost in all states, except Alaska and Hawaii. Most HVAC distributors participate in the program. Just ask at the counter the next time you are at the supply house.
ACCA conducted a mercury compliance Town Hall last year to address this and more. For further information on the why and how to properly dispose of mercury thermostats, please visit our webpage here.
ACCA and TRC also worked together to develop a sample policy to ensure that employees are properly handling and recycling mercury thermostats that are removed from customers’ homes or buildings.