Vermont county leads nation in thermostat recycling

Vermont county leads nation in thermostat recycling

Chittenden County collected 2,280 mercury-filled thermostats from 2012 to 2016.

August 24, 2017
Recycling Today Staff

Chittenden County, Vermont, leads the United States in its recycling program for mercury-containing thermostats, according to a recent report from the Thermostat Recycling Corp. (TRC), Fort Washington, Pennsylvania, that measured county recycling efforts.

The Green Mountain State's Chittenden County collected 2,280 mercury-filled thermostats between 2012 and 2016. Minnesota captured second and third place, with Hennepin County finishing a close second with 2,274 thermostats, followed by Olmstead County with 1,901 units.

"Chittenden County is an example of what a community can do to recycle mercury thermostats successfully," says Ryan Kiscaden, TRC executive director. "When you have a committed program, staff that understands the recycling process, and an informed and dedicated public that participates in recycling efforts, it demonstrates why they're No. 1."

The county has been conscious of the need for recycling for decades, according to Jen Holliday, compliance program and product stewardship manager for the county. "Our goal is to get our residents and businesses to keep hazardous materials out of the waste stream and to recycle as much as possible—including mercury-containing thermostats," she says.

The county maintains a fully staffed hazardous waste collection facility with four full-time employees and also have seven drop-off locations that collect mercury-containing thermostats throughout the county.

Chittenden County's geography is a plus in the collection process. It encompasses Burlington, the largest city in Vermont, representing about 25 percent of the state's population, according to Holliday. The state also mandates a $5 rebate for every thermostat that a contractor or consumer turns in.

Part of the success of their overall program is the culture of the residents, says Holliday. The county also has a broad and continuous educational and media relations program touting the benefits of recycling. It's not a hard sell in Chittenden County, which Holliday describes as a "progressive" area. "There are several Universities and Colleges in the county with lots of young, highly educated people who recognize the benefits of recycling," she says.

Community culture and geographic awareness contributed to Chittenden County's top finish, but its outreach program also played an important role.

CSWD maintains a recycling website offering collateral material on the subject to a broad spectrum of interested parties, ranging from consumers and businesses to communities, schools and haulers. From the site, individuals and businesses can download brochures and posters touting the need for and ease of recycling.

"Chittenden County's success in recycling mercury thermostats and other hazardous waste products is not only admirable, it serves as an example to other communities about how they might improve their collection processes," says Kiscaden.