The Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources met on June 1 to debate Bill C-238, which calls for a robust national strategy for the safe and environmentally sound disposal of mercury-containing lamps.
According to Darren Fisher, Member of Parliament for Dartmouth–Cole Harbour and sponsor of the bill, little has been done to protect Canadians from toxic mercury-bearing light bulbs that are tossed into landfills, which then contaminate land and water every day.
“The Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment reported that waste lamps, whether broken or intact, contribute about 1,150 kilograms of mercury into Canadian landfills each year,” he said at the senate meeting. “Sources state that it takes only 0.5 milligrams of mercury to pollute 180 tons of water. With remediation of mercury in land and water being so costly and incredibly difficult, we have to prevent mercury contamination in the first place.”
The Recycling Council of Ontario, (RCO), a long-time advocate on the issue, was in attendance to speak about proper management and national standards on handling and disposing of this hazardous material, and how it will benefit human health and the environment. Currently, mercury-containing lamps are still used in commercial and institutional sectors.
“The lighting industry estimates that more than 40 million mercury lamps are sold into office towers, malls and hospitals across the country every year,” said Jo-Anne St. Godard, executive director of RCO’s Take Back the Light, Canada’s leading light recycling program for businesses and institutions.
About 85 million mercury-containing lamps are sold in Canada every year, which represents 300 kilograms of mercury, 20 million kilograms of glass, 287 kilograms of phosphor powder and 295,000 kilograms of metals.
“While there are labelling requirements that indicate when mercury is present in a lamp, the lack of materials management strategy to keep them from disposal makes labelling inconsequential,” added St. Godard. “Therefore, Bill C-238 provides an important first step in advancing lamp management practices and facilitating awareness on how they should be managed. An end-of-life strategy makes sense and is particularly prudent.”
Strategies may include identifying practices for safe disposal of lamps, establishing guidelines for facilities to ensure safe and sound disposal is carried out and developing a plan to promote public awareness on safe disposal.
Bill C-238 was first introduced to parliament in February 2016 and has since passed through a second reading in senate and is now currently in the Senate committee stage.
Take Back the Light
Take Back the Light provides a simple low-cost opportunity to have fluorescent lamps and light fixtures recycled responsibly.
“The program encourages commercial buyers of lighting to make responsible choices. Whether lighting a stadium, subway tunnel, or office, buyers can use their purchasing influence to choose sellers and retailers that extend their services to include proper recycling,” RCO states. “The program also has first-of-its-kind recycling standard that ensures full recovery of mercury and accountability of all material to final disposition.”
For businesses or organizations not currently registered with Take Back the Light, we offer a low-cost solution that ensure every spent light is tracked and managed from collection point to final disposition under stringent environmental, health, and safety guidelines.