Waste Management: Mercury collection programs help protect the environment

Filed Under: June 2017 issue, Toolbox Articles

By Thomas Milkey
Every once in a while, you hear stories that are truly inspiring. Throughout the year we see and hear of numerous charity and community-related events that businesses and individuals of all ages take part in.
But right here on our coastlines, there is some unseen volunteerism taking place every day, which is truly helping the fragile Cape Cod ecosystems that surround us.
Since 2004, Kaliope Egloff, environmental specialist with the Cape Cod Cooperative Extension, has managed one of the most successful mercury collection programs in the state.
In 2000, Mass DEP mandated that mercury be removed from waste. Working with Cape Cod Cooperative Extension, the team at Covanta SEMASS helped develop the programs that have shown Cape Cod to be a leader in mercury collection and reclamation. From collection buckets left at various business locations, to individual drop offs at transfer stations or hazardous collection events, Cape Cod has collected more mercury than any other place in the state.
Egloff is proud of what has been accomplished so far and how the program continues to grow. “People can make a difference all year long. Last year alone we collected almost 90 pounds of mercury from individuals and local businesses,” she says.
Out of that total, 76 pounds of the total mercury collected last year was elemental mercury turned in by individuals who had found it in a basement or old storage shed.
“People sometimes find this stuff and don’t know what to do, or fear they will be fined or charged to get rid of it, but actually, it is free,” says Egloff. “There’s no paperwork, no fees, and no hassle because SEMASS pays for the collection.”
Snow & Jones, a well-known HVAC supplier, is one of 31 HVAC and plumbing supply houses across Cape Cod that contributed to turning in more than 1,000 thermostats in 2016. Twelve local boat yards also contributed by turning in several bilge pump float switches, which also contain small amounts of mercury.
With the combination of funding for the mercury collection program from Covanta SEMASS and local awareness materials provided by the Cooperative Extension, the inspiration and sweat equity has also come from residents of Cape Cod who want to make a difference.
Whether we participate as a business or as individuals with a feeling of responsibility to the environment, it doesn’t really matter in the end, as long as more of us do the right thing to protect this beautiful yet fragile ecosystem we call home.
Thomas Milkey is Writer/Creative Director of Grand Cove Creative. He can be reached at (774) 212-4300 or milkman.1970@live.com.

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