Mercury Minimization / Freezers

Description: Some chest freezers made with an internal lid light have a mercury switch incorporated in the light socket. If a chest freezer has a light in the cover and no visible mechanical switch, then it contains a mercury switch. This device senses when the lid is raised and turns on the light. It is estimated that around 190,000 freezers with this type of device in them were sold in the United States. Various types of cooling and refrigeration equipment used in restaurants and industrial applications contain mercury switches as well.

How to Identify: The person or company responsible for recycling or disposal of the appliance must dispose of the mercury properly. If you think you have come across a freezer with this type of switch, the following steps will allow you to remove the switch and store it properly.

  1. Unplug the freezer.
  2. Remove the plastic light cover.
  3. Unscrew the bulb.
  4. Pull the light base out with a one-quarter counterclockwise turn.
  5. Cut the wires connected to the light base.
  6. Place the entire base in a suitable container for storage and shipment to a mercury reclaimer.
  7. Cut off the freezer power cord to prevent future use and a possible shock hazard. The mercury is usually found in the rubber or plastic housing that holds the lamp. Some of the housings are marked "Hawkeye."
  8. Amount of Mercury: The freezer light switch contains about 1 gram of mercury.

Safe Disposal:

Either:

Find out whether you must follow any record keeping and other regulatory requirements, depending on the amount of hazardous waste your business generates. Click here for OEPA Pollution Prevention.