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Thermostat recycling targets reduced mercury contamination

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Albany is now requiring recycling of mercury thermostats to keep the metal out of the waste stream and waterways.

Right now, only around one-percent of the thermostats with the silvery metal are recycled. The rest of thermostats go into the garbage totes and into the waste system.

State Senator Mark Grisanti was one of the sponsors of a measure signed into law by Governor Cuomo which takes effect July 1.

Grisanti says the mandatory system is going into effect because a voluntary system didn't work "that was only capturing just about one-percent, that's one-percent of the approximate 310,000 thermostats that come off the walls every year in the collection."

According to Grisanti, nearly one ton of mercury from thermostats are sent sent to landfills and incinerators."

Grisanti says there are no penalties in the law. It sunsets in 2022 when the hope is that all of the mercury thermostats have been replaced.

Instead, the law calls for those in the business to establish an incentive system to encourage people and heating and air conditioning contractors to dispose of them properly.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.