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Connecticut Wasted Food Assistance

Removing Mercury from the Waste Stream: How CET Works Across Regional Programs

Mercury contamination poses a significant threat to both the environment and public health, as mercury-containing items, including thermostats, CFLs, and other household products, frequently enter our waste stream, exacerbating environmental degradation.

Recognizing this challenge, various programs have been initiated to address the proper disposal and recycling of mercury-containing materials. Here, we delve into three such programs and how they contribute to mitigating mercury pollution.

What is Mercury?

Mercury, an element used in everything from mining to hat making, has had diverse applications. Old thermometers were once used to take people’s temperature, and until the early 2000s, HVAC manufacturers used mercury in thermostats to control heating and air conditioning units in homes and buildings.

Why is Proper Disposal Important?

Mercury is a highly toxic substance that can cause serious harm to human health and the environment if not properly managed. When mercury-containing products are disposed of in landfills or incinerated, mercury can leach into the soil, waterways, and air, leading to contamination of ecosystems and potential health risks for humans and wildlife.

Mercury Disposal Programs


Recycling bulbs, batteries and more

Covanta, in collaboration with CET (the Center for EcoTechnology), leads a program aimed at preventing mercury from entering the waste stream in Massachusetts. The program mandates waste companies in the state to devise strategies for mercury waste management.

Materials Covered:

Covanta’s disposal services accept common mercury-containing items such as thermostats, Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs), old blood pressure cuffs, and elemental mercury jars. These services are available to residents in participating communities, with pickups facilitated at town waste sheds.

TRC (Thermostat Recycling Corporation)

Recycling thermostats across participating states

While TRC’s program doesn’t directly serve the public, individuals can locate thermostat recycling bins through the official website. These bins are strategically placed across participating states for convenient access.

Materials Covered:

TRC specializes in thermostats, and individuals can find the nearest container just by entering their zip code.


A Recycling program in Vermont and Maine

Focusing on public access to recycling bins at businesses, NEMA’s program mirrors TRC’s approach. CET conducts site visits to monitor bin status and coordinates their return to NEMA when full.

Materials Covered:

The program targets Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs), aiming to curb mercury contamination resulting from improper disposal of these energy-efficient bulbs.


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