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Components and Circuits For discussions about component types, alternatives and availability, circuit configurations and modifications etc. Discussions here should be of a general nature and not about specific sets.

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Old 9th Jul 2024, 12:19 am   #1
Julesomega
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Default Mercury Relays - help needed

I came back from seeing an old friend today who is suffering from an advanced aggressive cancer, having offered to help him find new homes for several old electrical items, including three mercury wetted relays, only to find an 'offered' thread here which has just been closed because of the everlasting toxicity of mercury.

Do the metal merchants no longer take (and pay for!) mercury? What would it cost to dispose legally of a few CC of mercury? Does anyone want any 2-pole relays (collection on foot only)?
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Old 9th Jul 2024, 12:29 am   #2
Bazz4CQJ
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Default Re: Mercury Relays - help needed

My guess is that mercury still has uses, and therefore, some value, but quite who would be interested in buying small quantities of old mercury is harder to say. I also suspect that moving it by mail or courier is something of a hurdle.
I too still have some, so would also welcome any insight you can raise.

B
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Old 9th Jul 2024, 7:37 am   #3
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Default Re: Mercury Relays - help needed

Best solution would surely be to find a new custodian who appreciates old tech.

Failing that, pop them carefully into a WEEE bin where they will no doubt be dealt with appropriately.
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Old 9th Jul 2024, 8:35 am   #4
ex seismic
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Default Re: Mercury Relays - help needed

Looking at some TV restoration programmes mercury is used in the neon lighting world in very small quantities to give colour to some gases. I'm sure such a person or company would be glad of it.
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Old 9th Jul 2024, 11:19 am   #5
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Default Re: Mercury Relays - help needed

I just checked the Lincolnshire council (consumer) guidelines for mercury waste - although not specifically listed, they do suggest it can be taken to most recycle centres, and placed in the "low energy bulbs & flourescent lights" waste stream. To avoid something like relays being 'removed' and placed into a different waste stream, it would probably be wise to add a 'contains Mercury' label as well. The council does state that the Mercury is recovered from that stream. I assume the same would apply to the rest of the UK... although with our disjointed recycle systems that could be a big assumption.
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Old 9th Jul 2024, 12:00 pm   #6
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Default Re: Mercury Relays - help needed

This does not sound as doom-laden as yesterday's discussion, so I am aiming to call in at the local scrap metal merchant (always interesting to visit!) and will report back. The recycling for Manchester (Suez) website makes no mention of mercury, but shows Fluorescents as accepted so Goldie's suggestion looks like the answer to recycling without profit!
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Old 9th Jul 2024, 12:14 pm   #7
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Default Re: Mercury Relays - help needed

I notice that mercury tilt switches are currently offered on UK eBay, usually tagged for Arduino. One proudly shows a Royal Mail logo!
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Old 9th Jul 2024, 1:27 pm   #8
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Default Re: Mercury Relays - help needed

I think the modern tilt switches are Hg-free and simply work with a ball bearing and contacts. Something similar exists in tablets and smartphones to tell the device which way up the screen is being held and viewed.
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Old 9th Jul 2024, 1:54 pm   #9
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Default Re: Mercury Relays - help needed

Tablets and smartphones will be using gyroscopes and accelerometers, possibly combined with compass in a single chip.
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Old 9th Jul 2024, 1:58 pm   #10
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Default Re: Mercury Relays - help needed

OK, I stand corrected Clever stuff.
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Old 10th Jul 2024, 3:29 am   #11
Bazz4CQJ
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Default Re: Mercury Relays - help needed

I checked out the price of new mercury from a chemical suppliers; £1850+VAT per kg. Trying to think of who uses the stuff these days, I guess that anyone who restores antique barometers or scientific glassblowers, but we'd be lucky to have either of those close by.

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Old 10th Jul 2024, 7:59 am   #12
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Default Re: Mercury Relays - help needed

This from the UK Government

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/controls-on-mercury
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Old 10th Jul 2024, 10:45 am   #13
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Default Re: Mercury Relays - help needed

That UK Government controls on mercury link shows a link to 'Disposing of a mercury added product' which just tells you to look at your local household recycling options; in my case they studiously avoid any mention of hazardous waste - fat lot of help. I think I'll use the fluorescent tubes option.

I phoned my local scrap merchant and they will not touch mercury, so that's another option gone.

eBay shows many tilt switches, including mercury and non-mercury. The ones I was looking at are specifically mercury types, though the seller carefully avoids saying what liquid metal they contain
https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/314906350578
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Old 10th Jul 2024, 11:21 am   #14
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Default Re: Mercury Relays - help needed

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bazz4CQJ View Post
Trying to think of who uses the stuff these days, I guess that anyone who restores antique barometers or scientific glassblowers, but we'd be lucky to have either of those close by.
It would be a godsend to anyone who restores old barometers I would have thought. Might be worth a few phone calls?
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Old 10th Jul 2024, 11:25 am   #15
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Default Re: Mercury Relays - help needed

a couple of years ago I gave about half a pint of mercury to the local barometer restorer and he was absolutely delighted
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Old 10th Jul 2024, 1:19 pm   #16
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Default Re: Mercury Relays - help needed

Hi Baz - that "£1850+VAT per kg" cost of mercury will have me looking for the un-opened bottle that I have secreted in the garage as soon as I finish typing!

Cheers
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Old 10th Jul 2024, 1:50 pm   #17
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Default Re: Mercury Relays - help needed

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Originally Posted by Craig Sawyers View Post
An interesting read.

Perhaps my visitors should be given a health warning! I have a number of mercury thermometers (all more than 50 years old, so possibly exempt) and a gymbal-mounted marine mercury barometer of uncertain age brought back from my late brother-in-law's house in France more than a decade ago. Seems I would need documentation to import it legally now, assuming I could do it at all.

Things used as standards seem to be allowed, but I don't suppose things like the Weston standard cell are used much now.

My visit to the dentist this morning reminds me that mercury is still used in silver amalgam fillings.
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Old 10th Jul 2024, 2:27 pm   #18
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Default Re: Mercury Relays - help needed

Yes, i have mercury amalgam fillings, and it has been shown (apparently) that they do liberate metallic mercury over time. I don't think it's affected me- but can't tell as there's no control sample to compare with!

The fluorescent 'tube recycling facilities (of which there aren't very many now) separate out phosphors, glass, mercury and other metals in quite a laborious process. You can imagine the emission rules they have to comply with. This is where the 'tubes from your local tip end up.

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Old 10th Jul 2024, 5:49 pm   #19
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Default Re: Mercury Relays - help needed

Quote:
Originally Posted by Julesomega View Post
I came back from seeing an old friend today who is suffering from an advanced aggressive cancer, having offered to help him find new homes for several old electrical items, including three mercury wetted relays, only to find an 'offered' thread here which has just been closed because of the everlasting toxicity of mercury.
The offered thread was closed at the request of the OP, as it had turned into a discussion thread, which seems to be no longer allowed in the sales/wanted sections.

I also doubt RM will be using planes in the UK much longer, due to both the environmental impact & cost cutting. They are already cutting the number of planes used in the UK by half and have discontinued airmail to the Isle of Man.

The best thing would be to find someone that wants the relays for their collection, or to use for repairing historic/vintage equipment, where exemptions apply.

Higher speed mercury relays are sometimes used in vintage equipment too and can have a short life in certain applications. Mercury is used in some valves & many nixie displays too, as well as the more common lighting applications.

David
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Old 10th Jul 2024, 8:42 pm   #20
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Default Re: Mercury Relays - help needed

I believe precious metal refiners may take Hg, Johnson Mathey springs to mind.
In the 80's they provided many electronics repair ships with bins for electronic waste which they recycled and the company got a periodical cheque for the value of the recovered materials

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