BOSTON - The Product Stewardship Institute (PSI) and the Thermostat Recycling Corp. (TRC) have partnered with the states of Indiana and Oregon, along with Portland General Electric, to offer contractors a financial incentive for recycling thermostats that contain mercury.PSI obtained a $50,000 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) grant to determine if offering a financial incentive to HVAC contractors results in increased recycling of these devices.

Environmental officials say that improper disposal of mercury thermostats is one of the largest sources of environmental mercury contamination from consumer products.

Under the yearlong pilot project, HVAC contractors in the two states will receive a rebate coupon for $3 in Indiana and $4 in Oregon, toward the purchase of a new, nonmercury, Energy Star® qualified thermostat. HVAC contractors will collect the old thermostats and deliver them to a participating wholesaler in exchange for a rebate coupon. The contractor will then purchase the new energy-saving thermostat, mail the coupon along with proof of purchase to TRC, and receive a rebate check. The aim of the project is to test whether the size of the incentive affects the rate at which contractors recycle the thermostats.

"If this model proves successful, it has the potential to dramatically increase the number of mercury-containing thermostats that are recycled," said Scott Cassel, PSI's executive director. "This project is an excellent example of product stewardship, in which industry and government can work together to solve an environmental problem," said Loretta Pickerell, solid waste policy and programs manager for the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality.

Publication date: 02/13/2006