California Agrees to a Sunset Provision for the Mercury Thermostat Collection Act
Things are about to change in the world of California law regarding the collection and recycling of mercury-containing thermostats.
Back in the day, California labeled this issue as the Mercury Thermostat Collection Act of 2008. After more than 13 years, they have updated the law, which they now describe as the Mercury Thermostat Collection Act of 2021. It goes into effect January 1, 2022.
The “old” law, as stated, was a mandate that we are familiar with. It required manufacturers to safely collect, transport, recycle and dispose of mercury-containing thermostats. However, there were a few requirements that were impossible to meet. By removing collection quotas, the program will continue to successfully collect and properly recycle mercury-containing thermostats without incurring violations or penalties.
The California legislature used the word “recast” to describe the current law. I believe it perfectly captures the intent, implementation and review of goals reflecting what we have accomplished since the wording of the original legislation.
Manufacturers will have monetary obligations associated with the outreach program and collection process. On behalf of those manufacturers, TRC will work with a third-party and continue to aggressively identify, collect, and safely recycle mercury-containing thermostats.
What has changed is that on Jan. 1, 2030, the mandate will end. This date is not an arbitrary choice on a timeline but a recognition that we have significantly reduced the number of mercury-containing thermostats in use and now have a reasonable and rational end to the legislation.
The new sunset provision is only possible because our partners and TRC have made enormous collection and recycling efforts. As I am fond of saying, we have the numbers and the mercury collections to prove it. We maintained a network of more than 3,600 collection sites nationwide and have recovered more than 2.7 million thermostats containing 12 tons of mercury since our inception. TRC’s manufacturers have assumed all costs associated with transportation and safe disposal of mercury switch thermostats that we recovered.
It is not unfair to note that California has some of the nation’s most stringent environmental laws. This new law, which reflects an updated and current assessment of the mercury thermostat situation, speaks volumes on how California assessed the need to update the legislation.
Beyond our efforts, however, a backstory is worthy of mention. From the beginning, California lawmakers, department leaders, environmental advocates, and our partners always had a common goal regarding thermostats, safety and a greener environment. The sticking point was how to achieve it. This is where a congratulatory moment is in order. We arrived at this new law working together with respect, an open mind and a willingness to listen. It wasn’t always easy, but no one lost sight of the larger picture.
However, while we are pleased with the new law, I want to ensure everyone that our commitment during this near decade-long closure process will not waiver. Our numbers will, as you might expect, decrease because of our previous successes. But our diligence and dedication remain.
In the end, the change in the California law occurred for the most basic of reasons: We want a safer environment for all.