Kent County offers gift cards to get mercury out of homes

Poison shed Kent County Department of Public Works
An image of the poison shed at the Kent County Department of Public Works. (Oct. 20, 2016)


KENT COUNTY, Mich. (WOOD) — You may have dangerous mercury in your home and not even know it.

Thermostats and even light bulbs can contain mercury, which can cause major health issues. That’s why the Kent County Department of Public Works is offering free disposal of mercury products for Kent County residents.

Thursday, Kent County resource recovery specialist Megan Kretz showed 24 Hour News 8 how the county safely disposes of hazardous materials. The setup includes a poison shed and a mercury drum for storage.

“Mercury is considered a metal. It’s very dangerous. Once it gets into the home, if an object that has mercury in it breaks, it can be very expensive to clean up,” Kretz said.

Mercury can also be absorbed through the skin or inhaled, which can lead to coughing, sore throat, chest pain, nausea, vomiting and even death.

A sign at the Kent County Department of Public Works greets people dropping of household hazardous waste. (Oct. 20, 2016)
A sign at the Kent County Department of Public Works greets people dropping of household hazardous waste. (Oct. 20, 2016)

“I don’t think some people realize that what is sitting on their wall that is controlling the heat in their home actually has a large vial of mercury inside of it,” Kretz said.

Mercury was first used in thermostats and light bulbs because the metal closes an electrical circuit when it makes contact with metal electrodes, enabling users to turn something on and off.

Now that the health hazards are known, there’s a push nationwide to rid regularly used devices of mercury.

“We’re moving in a more of an environmental direction, so it’s kind of a push everywhere,” Kretz added.

In partnership with the Thermostat Recycling Corporation, Kent County is offering a $5 Jimmy Johns gift card to the first 200 residents to drop off a mercury thermostat, beginning Oct. 24.

Kent County residents can drop off mercury thermostats and other products containing mercury at any of the following locations:

Kent County Department of Public Works
1500 Scribner Ave. NW
Grand Rapids, MI 49504

City of Kentwood Public Works
5068 Breton Road SE
Kentwood, MI 49508

North Kent Recycling & Waste Center
2908 Ten Mile Road NE
Rockford, MI 49341

Wyoming Clean Water Plant
2350 Ivanrest Ave. SW
Wyoming, MI 49418