Storing, Transporting and Disposing of Mercury in Your Home

What to Do if You Have Mercury in Your Home

Many people have containers of elemental or metallic mercury in their homes left over from science projects or other sources. If you have metallic mercury in your home, you need to exercise extreme caution with it and package it to prevent any leaks or spills. See the next two sections of this page to find how to package, transport and dispose of mercury.

Packaging Mercury for Storage and Transportation

  • Place all mercury-containing products or containers of mercury inside a larger container with a tight fitting lid.
  • Place kitty litter or oil-absorbent matter around the product to protect it from breaking or sudden shocks.
  • Clearly label storage container as "Mercury - DO NOT OPEN."
  • If you must wait for a hazardous waste collection day, store products safely in their original containers with the labels intact, and keep them out of reach of children and pets.
  • Transport containers to a household hazardous collection center in a cardboard box. Secure the containers so that they do not tip over, and to minimize shifting or sliding during sudden stops or turns.
  • Transport containers in the back of a pick-up truck or in your car's trunk. If you must transport in the passenger compartment, make sure there is adequate ventilation.

Recycling and Disposal Options

Many states and local agencies have developed collection/exchange programs for mercury-containing devices such as thermometers, manometers, and thermostats. Some counties and cities also have household hazardous waste collection programs. For information about these programs, contact your local officials to find out when and where a collection will be held in your area. You can also use Earth911's Recycling Locator Exitto find a recycling center near you.

More information:

Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) Recycling and Disposal Requirements that Apply to Business and Industry

RCRA designates some widely generated hazardous wastes as "universal wastes.” This term includes mercury-containing wastes like certain batteries, thermostats, barometers, manometers, temperature and pressure gauges, certain switches and light bulbs. Businesses and industries that qualify as universal waste handlers must follow specific requirements for storing, transporting and disposing of these wastes. Households are exempt from these regulations. Find more information about universal wastes and the RCRA regulations that apply to them.

Some states and local jurisdictions have elected to pass regulations that are more stringent than the federal hazardous waste regulations. Several states and municipalities do not recognize the exemption for households; others regulate all fluorescent bulbs as hazardous, regardless of their mercury content. For example, Vermont bans all mercury-containing waste from landfills, including mercury-containing waste generated by households. For more information specific to your state, enter your location's ZIP code into the recycling locatorExit to contact your local waste collection agency; the agency can tell you if such requirement exists in your state or locality.

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