Mercury had been used in many items found in school science labs, including thermometers, barometers, switches, thermostats and lamps.
Scientists say mercury is hard to contain or clean up after a spill.
"You have this little silver falling on the floor and they put it on their shoes and they bring it home and one of these can pollute thousands of gallons of water," EPA spokesperson Olof Hansen said.
One key problem with disposing of mercury- filled devices is the inconvenience of taking them to hazardous waste sites.
This project is a partnership among Oakland High School, East Bay MUD and the Environmental Protection Agency.