<strong>An opportunity to improve light bulb recycling and mitigate environmental risk</strong>

Published on August 14, 2014
Chris Morrissey is the executive director of the Clean Foundation (formerly Clean Nova Scotia).

Changes to waste regulation recently proposed by the province would send less waste to the landfill, put more responsibility in the hands of manufacturers and lessen health and environmental risks associated with light bulb disposal.

One component of these proposed changes – the opportunity to recycle compact fluorescent lights or CFLs – would be a progressive measure for our province and a wise environmental choice.

As many as 350,000 CFLs, and the mercury they contain, could be diverted from the landfill every year if the province moves ahead with recommended changes to Nova Scotia’s Solid Waste-Resource Management Regulations. Though a single bulb holds a small amount of mercury, collectively the bulbs represent a significant category of mercury-containing wastes known to be harmful to people, animals and plants.

To capture industry and public feedback on the proposed changes, the province held meetings and made an online feedback request available until Aug. 1. The province will continue to hear municipal feedback until the deadline of Sept. 30.

If the changes are carried out, the onus will be on manufacturers and retailers to reduce packaging, to make products that are easier to recycle and to take greater consideration of the product’s life cycle. This improved Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) approach, which would also be applied to several other products such as batteries, packaging and pharmaceuticals, is already in place for electronics, tires and paint cans disposed of in Nova Scotia.

Putting an EPR in place for CFL bulbs would ensure their safe recycling and keep the bulbs and their mercury out of landfills. Furthermore, it would enable other bulb components such as glass, metal and plastic to be recycled and reused.

Improved disposal of CFLs increases their appeal as an energy efficient alternative to conventional incandescent bulbs. More than 2 million CFLs are lighting homes across Nova Scotia using 75 per cent less electricity and lasting 10 times longer than incandescent lights.

As a nongovernmental and non-profit environmental organization working in waste management for more than 25 years, we are pleased to see the province is looking to extend EPR measures to products such as CFL bulbs, as many other Canadian provinces have. Such improvements will help Nova Scotia maintain its positon as a leader in waste management.

We look forward to working with the province, as we believe the proposed changes will help provide individuals with the means, knowledge and opportunity to make responsible environmental choices.

Chris Morrissey is the executive director of the Clean Foundation (formerly Clean Nova Scotia).