The Business Council supports the intent of this bill – to promote the proper disposal of mercury containing thermostats – we disagree with key components of S.1676A / A.8084, and oppose its approval.
The Business Council along with the Sponsors and advocates for the environment worked to obtain compromise legislation. Last session, a compromise was reached with many of the interested parties in the form of S.3435C of 2011-2012 (which Passed Senate). The Business Council believed that the thermostat recycling program established by S.3435C (2012) was predicated on a reasonably approach to shared responsibilities among manufacturers, distributors and contractors. Unfortunately, S.1676A / A.8084 diverges from that legislation significantly, creating an untenable situation.
S.1676/A.8084 would increase the demands on the manufactures to collect significantly more out-of- service thermostats, while at the same time reducing the required participation from other parties. Evidence from other states incontrovertibly indicates that thermostat collection programs are most successful when every party is involved; unfortunately this legislation increases the burdens on one party while lessening the responsibility of others.
It is important to note Maryland with the most successful program and some of the highest recovery rates does not have a goal, bounty or incentive. In 2010 the Maryland program collected 73 thermostats per 10,000 people. The primary driver to Maryland's success has been an energy-efficiency program to replace old thermostats through a partnership between Baltimore Gas and Electric and Honeywell, which rigorously ensures that all mercury thermostats are set aside by technicians for recycling through TRC. This legislation does not ensure that similar successes are obtained in New York because it removes the specific statutory responsibility of State agency to actively participate in the program.
We have a number of concerns with this proposal:
- Most significantly, this bill puts the vast majority of the responsibility and cost for implementing thermostat recycling on a single party – the manufacturer – that has no control over when or how thermostats are replaced and disposed of.
- The bill does not contain reporting requirements for other parties to report the number of thermostats that are recovered, making it difficult to judge the participation by other parties.
- The bill requires manufacturers to develop recycling and education programs, and sets minimum standards for such programs, but then gives the DEC extremely broad discretion to require modifications of such programs, including consideration of consistency with programs mandated in other states.
- Since the ultimate objective of this legislation is to assure proper disposal, and to minimize risk of mercury releases into the environment, it should include an explicit prohibition on disposal of mercury-containing thermostats in the municipal waste stream.
Thermostat manufacturers have been proactive in promoting the collection and proper management of mercury-containing thermostats, and have established the Thermostat Recycling Corporation that operates a nationwide reverse distribution system for their products. We believe that thermostat recycling programs can be successful, if there are reasonably shared responsibilities among manufacturers, distributors and contractors.
We believe there are more efficient and effective approaches to promoting environmentally sound thermostat management than that proposed in S.1676A/ A.8084, therefore we oppose its approval.