How to safely dispose of wall-mounted thermostats and fluorescent light bulbs

  • Fluorescent light bulbs, including compact fluorescent lights (CFLs), come in a variety of shapes. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

  • Most old wall-mounted thermostats contain mercury. Look for an ampoule inside with silver liquid, handle carefully and bring to a special drop off site. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

For the Recorder
Published: 12/13/2021 2:13:28 PM
Modified: 12/13/2021 2:12:52 PM

Installing a new programmable thermostat or LED light bulbs is a great way to upgrade your home or business. But be careful to never put old wall-mounted thermostats or fluorescent light bulbs in the trash or recycling.

This is because old wall-mounted thermostats and fluorescent light bulbs contain mercury, which is hazardous to human health, wildlife and the environment. Handle these items carefully to avoid breakage and bring them to one of many local free or low-cost disposal sites.

Thermostats and other mercury items

Old wall-mounted thermostats contain a significant amount of liquid mercury. These thermostats are safe to use on the wall, but once removed, careful disposal is important.

Handle these items carefully, placing them in a sealed plastic bag. Keep thermostats intact; do not remove ampoules.

Eighteen municipal transfer stations in Franklin County accept mercury-bearing items such as old wall-mounted thermostats, thermometers, switches, gauges and blood pressure monitors, plus liquid mercury, for free. The 18 transfer stations are in Ashfield, Bernardston, Buckland, Charlemont, Colrain, Conway, Deerfield, Heath, Leverett, Montague, New Salem, Northfield, Orange, Rowe, Shelburne, Warwick, Wendell and Whately. Resident permits may be required.

Greenfield residents can call the Greenfield Wastewater Treatment Plant for free drop-off and safe disposal of thermostats, thermometers and other mercury-bearing items, at 413-772-1539.

Additional drop-off locations for mercury thermostats, such as plumbing/HVAC contractors and plumbing supply stores, are listed at All locations accept mercury thermostats free of charge.

Fluorescent light bulbs

Fluorescent light bulbs of all shapes and sizes should never be put in the trash. Free recycling for compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) is available at Home Depot. Lowe’s stores accept all sizes and shapes of fluorescents free of charge, including circular and straight lamps.

Every transfer station in Franklin County, including the Greenfield Transfer Station, accepts fluorescent light bulbs; some may charge small fees (for example, 50 cents to $1 each). The Greenfield Transfer Station is open to out-of-town residents who pay a $5 host fee, plus any fees for materials.

The newer “light emitting diode” (LED) bulbs do not contain mercury or hazardous materials and can be disposed of in the trash. Some collection sites might accept LEDs for recycling with CFLs. Old-fashioned incandescent or halogen light bulbs must go in the trash; no recycling is available. To avoid accidental injuries, wrap incandescent, halogen or LED light bulbs in used paper or plastic before placing them in the trash.

What to do if a bulb or ampoule breaks

If a mercury ampoule breaks or mercury is spilled, ventilate the area for 15 minutes. Evacuate people and pets. Do not use a vacuum cleaner or broom to clean up. Wearing disposable gloves, collect droplets of mercury using two stiff pieces of paper or cardboard. Small drops can be picked up on tape. Place these items and the broken thermostat in a doubled plastic bag and seal tightly. Wash your hands, remove any contaminated clothing and wash it before reuse.

Fluorescent bulbs contain mercury vapor. If a fluorescent bulb breaks, the vapor can be harmful to human health and the environment. If you break a fluorescent bulb, get people and pets out of the area for 15 minutes. Ventilate: open doors or windows. After 15 minutes, put on gloves and scoop up the pieces with two pieces of cardboard. Use moist paper towels to clean up small pieces. Do not use a broom or vacuum. Put all pieces and paper towels in a plastic bag or closeable container, seal it and bring to one of the sites listed above.

For more information on any of these programs, or to learn more about recycling, composting and hazardous waste disposal, contact the Franklin County Solid Waste Management District office at 413-772-2438 or, or visit

Amy Donovan is program director of the Franklin County Solid Waste Management District.


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