The TRC is a private corporation established by the nation's largest thermostat manufacturers, Honeywell, White Rodgers, and General Electric. It is a voluntary, industry-sponsored program that provides a mechanism for the proper disposal of mercury switch thermostats, regardless of brand. The program began operating in nine states (Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, Ohio, and Wisconsin) in 1998, but by 2001 was active in the remaining lower 48 states as well. More than 1,300 HVAC wholesalers participate in the TRC (a full list of participating wholesalers is available at www.nema.org/trc).
Recently, the TRC expanded to encompass HVAC contractors as well, provided they have at least seven technicians in the firm or are located in a rural county. Since this expansion was announced last year, 155 independent contractors have signed up for the program.
For a one-time fee of $15, each participating wholesaler and contractor receives a protective plastic bin to store end-of-life thermostats as they are removed during demolition and remodeling. When the bins are full, participants ship them free of charge to the TRC's recovery center, where industry personnel remove the switches and forward them to a mercury recycling facility.
The TRC focuses on HVAC wholesalers and contractors because they sell and install the majority of thermostats, and the industry already has the infrastructure to support an effective collection program. Some local governments have separate programs in place to manage recycling or disposal of used thermostats directly from homeowners, who can contact their local hazardous waste management officials for more information on these local programs.
Meanwhile, the TRC is collaborating with the Product Stewardship Institute (PSI) in 2006 to conduct pilot projects in two states, Oregon and Indiana, to evaluate the impact of providing a financial incentive to contractors to recycle mercury thermostats. Contractors who return a thermostat for recycling and purchase a new Energy Star-approved thermostat will receive a rebate coupon redeemable for $3 in Indiana and $4 in Oregon. Funding is being provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region V, Portland General Electric Co, and the TRC.
For information about the TRC, visit www.nema.org/trc.
Publication date: 02/06/2006