Brighton, Mass.-based Interstate Electric Equipment is one of nearly 900 heating, ventilation, and cooling (HVAC) wholesalers nationwide that collects used, wall-mounted, mercury switch thermostats from its customers, and sends them free of charge to the Thermostat Recycling Corp. (TRC).

"I'm trying to do this as much as possible," said Interstate Electric Equipment owner Jeff Hurwitz (pictured). "It's a great program that dealers and contractors should be using more. Mercury is a deadly poison that we need to keep out of the environment."

Established by Honeywell, General Electric and White Rodgers, TRC's recycling program has collected more than 184,000 thermostats and processed nearly 1,600 pounds of mercury from HVAC contractors since it began operations in 1998. The program calls on wholesalers to collect thermostats using protective bins provided by TRC. When a bin is full, the wholesaler sends it to TRC's recycling center, where they remove the switches and send them to a mercury recycler. TRC picks up the shipping cost and sends back a free container. No paperwork or record-keeping is required. The program costs wholesalers a one-time fee of $15 per collection container.

Mercury harms the brain, liver and kidneys and causes developmental disorders in children. Anytime a thermostat is thrown in the trash, its mercury is released into the air. Once in the air, the mercury falls back to the ground with rain and snow and converges with bacteria in water to form methyl mercury that fish absorb and store in their bodies. More than 40 states have issued advisories warning pregnant women and young children not to eat any freshwater fish, nor any of certain ocean species, including swordfish, tuna steak and shark.

"For us it's a no-brainer," said Hurwitz. "It's free and it's easy. People are getting into the habit of recycling bottles and cans at home. Most contractors we work with are looking for a place to take their thermostats."

Honeywell supplies automation and control systems. General Electric offers motors to serve the air-moving market segment. White Rodgers manufactures temperature controls.

For more information on the Thermostat Recycling Corp., contact Ric Erdheim at (703) 841-3249, or visit the Web site at