Environmental activists want mercury thermostats recycled

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NYPIRG and environmental advocates on Wednesday pushed for legislation that would require mercury thermostats to be recycled to decrease individuals’ risk of mercury poisoning, Gannett’s Haley Viccaro reports.

A report released by national environmental groups this month said that New York ranks 37th in the nation for thermostat recycling. The recycling programs in the state are manufacturer-run, and advocates said that companies are failing to keep toxic heavy metals under control.

“New York’s mercury thermostat collection program is at the bottom of the toxic barrel,” said Laura Haight, senior environmental associate for NYPIRG, in a statement. “While other states have made progress on this issue, New York has slipped from bad to worse.”

In 2010, Assemblyman Bob Sweeney introduced legislation that required mandatory collection programs statewide, which has passed every year. Last year, Sen. Mark Grisanti, R-Buffalo, also proposed a bill that the Senate passed in June.

“Mercury is a toxic substance,” Grisanti said in a statement. “We need an effective collection program to keep our water and air clean and free from mercury contamination.”

Groups gathered at the Capitol for a news conference Wednesday, urging the state Legislature to support a mandatory collection law and financial incentives for the collection of mercury thermostats. They are pushing for the governor and lawmakers to pass the legislation this year.

The state collects about 8 percent of mercury thermostats, which resulted in more than 50 tons of mercury being exposed in the environment and water, the report said. About 310,000 thermostats are taken out of service annually, 1 percent of them collected and recycled.

“New York State has not done nearly enough to keep mercury from being released into our environment, and as a result we are falling behind other states,” said Saima Anjam, of Environmental Advocates of New York, in a statement. “New York should be a leader.”

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