Got Mercury? Here's How to Dispose of it Properly

Aug 4, 2017

Credit ocrra.org

Monday morning might be a good time to take advantage of the opportunity to safely dispose of old thermostats and prescription drugs sitting around the house.  The Onondaga Resource Recovery Agency is holding its Mercury and Medication Drop-off Event at the Rock Cut Road Transfer Station.  OCRRA spokesperson Kristen Lawton says the event is vital for getting old mercury thermostats and thermometers out of homes and disposed of properly.

"It's really, really important to properly manage mercury because mercury is a neurotoxin. You have a thermometer or thermostat and you happen to break the vial that contains the mercury; that actually can escape into the environment and it can cause nervous system damage for humans and animals as well.” 

In addition to these items, volunteers will collect old or un-needed medications residents want to dispose of. While meds like pain killers can be thrown in the trash, Lawton says people nervous about children and pets getting into old pills may feel more comfortable passing them off to OCRRA

“What happens here in Onondaga County, our trash does not go to a landfill. It gets turned into electricity at a waste energy facility for secure destruction. So your medication is going to meet the same end whether you choose to come to an event or whether you choose to disguise it and put it in your trash year-round. It’s entirely up to you.” 

Credit ocrra.org

  • For more information about mercury and its health effects visit, epa.gov/mercury

Lawton says residents can also bury old meds in their trash under coffee grounds and other waste, but must never dump meds down the drain so chemicals don’t leech into the water system. Meanwhile, mercury from thermostats and thermometers is safely recycled into medical equipment.

“Each of these items is actually sent to a special location that extracts the mercury and then manages the other material appropriately as trash. So it isn’t something that just goes off into a dump there is actually a special protocol for disposal.”

OCRRA’s event partner, Covanta, will even purchase carbon credits to offset the pollution of driving to the event, which runs Monday morning from  7:30 to 10:30.  Organizers ask residents bringing thermostats and thermometers to print, fill out, and bring a form from their website,  ocrra.org