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Mercury-Containing Devices

This item is banned from disposal in the trash in Vermont. It must be disposed of as hazardous waste.

Disposal Options

Mercury-containing devices are accepted at the District HazWaste Center. Mercury-containing devices include:

  • thermometers with a silver bulb*
  • thermostats
  • manometers and other gauges
  • mercury switches
  • mercury flame sensors and temperature probes
  • certain batteries

*One exception to this is the new fever thermometers containing gallium, indium and tin that also contain a silver bulb but are clearly marked “mercury-free.”) If the bulb is red, blue, purple, green or any other color, it is not a mercury thermometer.

Mercury is a highly toxic heavy metal. When lamps are broken or thrown into the trash, mercury is released into the environment in the form of an invisible vapor or a bead. It is best to avoid any exposure to mercury and prevent its release into the environment where it can damage our lakes and streams and poison fish and wildlife. For guidance on what to do if you break a mercury bulb, visit the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation web page about disposal of mercury-containing products or see the instructions below. 

Mercury Thermostat Rebate

Disposing of mercury-containing thermostats properly will yield all customers a $5 rebate when they are brought to the District Transfer Station or to participating retail and wholesale locations.

Here's how to receive your rebate when bringing a thermostat to the District Transfer Station:

  1. Place your thermostat inside a plastic zip-lock baggie to reduce the chances of a mercury spill during transport.
  2. Bring the entire thermostat (including metal ring or cover) to the District Transfer Station. All traffic must go over the scale, so inform the scale operator that you have a thermostat.
  3. Hand the thermostat to the scale operator. You will be given a card containing a rebate card and a receipt.
  4. Fill out and send in the rebate card, and keep the receipt for your records.
  5. Once the manufacturer receives both the thermostat from the District and your rebate card, you will receive a check for $5.

Note: Since the District sends thermostats for recycling in batches, it may take several months before you receive the rebate. You can call the number on your receipt to check on the status of your rebate. Also, if the thermostat does not contain all parts (particularly the metal ring and/or cover), or if it does not contain mercury, you will not receive a rebate. Anyone can participate at retail and wholesale locations. There is no limit on the number of units each person or business can turn in at the District Transfer Station. Please call ahead if you have large quantities. For more information on the thermostat rebate program, including retail and wholesale locations near you that accept thermostats, visit Vermont's Mercury Education & Reduction Campaign (MERC) webpage.

If you break a mercury-containing device:

Do not vacuum or sweep the area as it will spread mercury vapor to other areas of the room. Also, keep all people and pets away from breakage area so that mercury powder is not tracked into other areas.

For breakage on a hard surface:

  1. Ventilate the area well by closing interior doors and vents, opening windows and any exterior doors in the room, and leaving the room for at least 15 minutes.
  2. Remove all materials you can and do not vacuum or sweep.
  3. Wear disposable gloves, if available.
  4. Carefully scoop up fragments and dust from the broken item with a stiff piece of paper or cardboard (such as playing cards or index cards).
  5. Pick up any remaining small pieces of glass and powder using sticky tape (such as masking tape or duct tape).
  6. Wipe the area clean with a damp paper towel or disposable wet wipe.
  7. Place all cleanup materials (cardboard, gloves, tape, etc.) in a plastic bag (and double bag) to seal it; or preferably, place into a glass or rigid container with a lid. Store the bag or container outside of the house in an area inaccessible to children.
  8. Wash your hands.
  9. Bring to the District Transfer Station during household hazardous waste hours.
  10. Leave the windows in the affected room or area open as long as practical (weather permitting).

For breakage on carpet, complete steps 1 through 6 above, then:

  1. If rug is removable, take it outside, shake, and air out as long as practical.
  2. After cleanup and the room or area has been ventilated: the first time you vacuum the area where the bulb was broken, shut the door to the room or close off the area from as much of the rest of the house as possible, and ventilate the room when vacuuming. Remove the vacuum bag once done cleaning the area, wipe vacuum with wet wipe and put the bag and/or vacuum debris, including cleanup materials, into a plastic bag (double bag it) and store the bag outside the house in an area inaccessible to children. Refer to #5 above for proper disposal options.
  3. After vacuuming, keep window open, door closed and children/pets out of room.
  4. Consider removal of carpeting section where the breakage has occurred as a precaution when there are infants, small children, and pregnant women present.

For questions, call the Vermont Department of Health at (802) 240-5076 (24 hour pager).

Cost

Mercury Devices

Intact thermometers, thermostats, etc.: No Charge

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