Mercury bead from thermostat, mercury thermometer

What is it? 

Mercury is one of the only metals that is liquid at room temperature and evaporates quickly when exposed to air. It is a metal so it conducts electricity and because of its viscosity, it responds to pressure and temperature changes. Mercury has been used in many consumer applications including thermometers, thermostats, electrical switches, sensors, fluorescent lights, components of electronics, old button batteries, switches, and sensors in pre-1972 appliances, and switches and sensors in pre-2003 automobiles. 

What is the issue? 

The problem with the disposal of mercury is that it is hazardous to human beings. Human exposure to mercury can cause brain, nerve, kidney, and lung damage and, in extreme cases, coma, or death. As well, children exposed to mercury while in the womb can experience developmental difficulties. The hazardous nature of mercury makes it essential that it is recycled correctly. 

Where can it go? 

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There are a few different recycling programs in the province that address the various mercury-containing products. 

  • Switch out is a national program that collects mercury-containing lighting switches and mercury-containing ABS sensor modules from end of life automobiles. To date, the program has collected over 730,000 mercury switches. The program has collection points across Canada. Contact SGI for drop-off locations. 

  • There is a thermostat recovery program that collects end of life mercury-containing thermostats. To date, the program has collected over 133,525 mercury thermostats, which is 529.10 kilograms of mercury. The program has drop-off locations for individuals and organizations across Canada. 

  • Several communities in Saskatchewan host household hazardous waste days. Hazardous waste collectors will take mercury-containing thermostats, fluorescent tubes, and batteries.  

Check our Waste Reduction Hub to find a drop-off location near to you. 

What happens after? 

The mercury is extracted from the product it is in, purified, then reused in another device. 

How can I reduce? 

  • Opt for mercury-free products when available. 

  • Ensure that your mercury-containing products are responsibly recycled.