How Does Canada Do It?
There is an adage that we often don’t look outside the confines of our own experience to see how others perform in the same field or industry as we do.
Recently, I wondered about the finer points of how Canada implements its mercury-containing thermostat recycling program, especially because TRC has a link to our neighbor’s recycling website.
Canada’s Thermostat Recovery Program is a stewardship approach that focuses on recovering and recycling thermostats no one uses. It accepts mercury-containing, electronic and mechanical thermostats and ensures that all of the components, especially the mercury, don’t enter the waste stream. The Heating Refrigeration, and Air Conditioning Institute of Canada (HRAI), an organization similar to HARDI, administers the program.
TRC’s and Canada’s collection are efforts are similar. While we recycle from a variety of sources, the HVAC wholesale and municipal channel underpins most of our efforts. Canada follows a comparable pattern that includes contractors, regional districts and homeowners.
Yet the Canadian effort essentially matches TRC’s goal: keeping mercury out of the waste stream.
They have done a commendable job. On their website, they have a “TRP Counter” that tracks their efforts. A recent review shows they collected 244,506 vessels of which 170,786 were thermostats, resulting in 611.67 kilograms. (That’s 1,347.61 pounds for our American readers.) We should remember that Canada has slightly more than 11% of the population compared with the United States (37 million compared with the U.S.’s 327 million), though it is slightly larger geographically.
When asked recently about the differences between our two countries, April Heeley, manager, Environmental Services, pointed out several.
The first is cost. Because Canada has a much smaller population, the cost per acquisition is higher.
In the U.S., about half the states have mandates regarding mercury waste, and approximately a quarter of the U.S. states have mandates regarding mercury thermostats themselves. Canada has 10 provinces and three northern territories. Only two, British Columbia and Manitoba, have the equivalent of mandates regarding the recycling of mercury-containing thermostats.
And while we may one day retire, this does not exist with the Canadian approach because they will continue to acquire and recycle electronic thermostats and other products.
Even though there isn’t a direct connection between the United States and Canada regarding the thermostat recycling efforts, “We do have discussions with them [U.S.], and there is dialogue and comparisons, and we look to each other for best practices,” Heeley said.
It is comforting to know that the United States and Canada not only remain good neighbors but allies in our efforts to eliminate mercury from the environmental stream.