FORT WASHINGTON, Penn. — During a recent review of its plan for recycling mercury containing thermostats, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency changed the goals set under the state’s Thermostat Collection Act from 2015 to 2020. The amended guidelines acknowledge that the original numerical collection goals calling for a specific number of mercury containing thermostats were unrealistic moving forward. The regulation modified both collection targets and added a series of programmatic activities to complete annually.

“We applaud the Illinois EPA in formulating new guidelines regarding mercury containing thermostats that recognize the reality of the marketplace and the continued diminishing returns we can expect,” said Ryan Kiscaden, executive director, Thermostat Recycling Corp. (TRC). “We reached the apex of our collection process in 2014, and through our efforts and other industry partners, we have successfully recycled millions of mercury containing thermostats throughout the United States and tens of thousands in Illinois.”

TRC’s support of the Illinois action acknowledges the state’s realistic appraisal of the marketplace and the work the program has already achieved. Some environmental advocates continue to maintain the pursuit of numerical recycling targets that were set years ago, either voluntarily or by state mandates. Kiscaden said those goals did not have merit then, and the truth is playing out in the present. Past successes and the acceptance that no one manufactures mercury containing thermostats for the residential market were never taken into consideration.

“We are in agreement with environmentalists and our industry partners that the effort to recycle these thermostats was a sound idea,” he said. “Where we differ with some is that the act of plucking an arbitrary number out of thin air for recycling is effective. No one knows how many are still out there. What we can see through demonstrative evidence is the number continues to decline, not because of effort on the part of industry partners, but because there are fewer of them and there is no replenishment.”

There is also an added economic variable that will impact future collections, according to Kiscaden.

“As the collection number of potential thermostats dwindles, the cost per unit will continue to rise,” said Kiscaden. “It’s the unfortunate economic cloud that hangs over us because of our successful recycling efforts.”

To date, TRC has collected more than 2.4 million mercury containing thermostats and recycled and kept 11 tons of mercury from entering the environmental stream.

Publication date: 1/7/2019

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