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Legislation & Regulations

​National Strategy to Address Disposal of Mercury-Containing Lamps Becomes Law

Bill C238 has passed, which means opportunity for increased recycling of mercury bulbs

(Toronto) Bill C-238, a private member's bill that sets a national strategy for sound management of mercury-containing lamps, has received Royal Assent and is now federal law.

The National Strategy for Safe and Environmentally Sound Disposal of Lamps Containing Mercury Act calls on Canada's Minister of Environment and Climate Change to work with provinces, territories and all interested and appropriate governments, persons, and organizations to develop a robust national strategy for the safe and environmentally sound management of mercury-containing lamps.

"Far too many mercury-containing lamps are lost to disposal when they reach end-of-life," says Jo-Anne St. Godard, Executive Director, Recycling Council of Ontario. "Bill C-238 nationalizes efforts to capture mercury, facilitates a harmonized approach to protect human and environmental health, and maximizes value through recycling."

Highlights of the Act include:

• identification of practices for the safe and environmentally sound disposal of lamps that contain mercury
• establishment of guidelines for facilities where activities involved in the safe and environmentally sound disposal of those lamps are carried out
• development of a plan to promote public awareness of the importance of those lamps being disposed of safely and in an environmentally sound manner.

"Local governments that collect material for recycling and disposal are often left to their own devices to deal with mercury. The result is a patchwork of regulations, programs, standards, and monitoring strategies. This Act is important and relevant legislation that will lead to greater capture of mercury."

Bill C-238 also aligns with the Government of Canada recently ratified Minamata Convention on Mercury, a global and legally binding treaty that aims to protect human health and the environment from anthropogenic emissions and releases of mercury and mercury compounds. It includes phasing out and phasing down of mercury use in products and processes and control measures on emissions to air and on releases to land and water.

Recycling Council of Ontario (RCO) has long been active in ensuring the safe disposal of mercury-containing bulbs and tubes through its Take Back the Light program, which works with wholesale buyers and sellers of fluorescent lamps to recover and properly recycle lights to the highest environmental standards. Since 2008, Take Back the Light has helped to collect 19.6 million lamps; and recovered 70 kilograms of mercury, 4.6 million kilograms of glass, 70,000 kilograms of aluminum, and 67,000 kilograms of phosphorus powder for recycling purposes.

RCO's experience with mercury-containing products also led it to being commissioned by Environment Canada in 2016 to develop a Proposed Code of Practice for the Environmentally Sound Management of End-of-life Lamps Containing Mercury. Its objective is to prevent the release of mercury to the environment by identifying best practices for collection, storage, transportation and processing of mercury-containing lamps at end-of-life.

"While there are labeling requirements that indicate when mercury is present in a lamp at point of purchase, Canada has lacked a cohesive national strategy to make sure mercury-containing bulbs are properly managed at end of life. This law is a positive first step that will apply best practice and raise awareness on managing material when it is no longer of use, and ensure every component part of a mercury-containing bulb is recovered and recycled. We look forward to supporting the development of this first-of-its-kind pan-Canadian strategy."

Recycling Council of Ontario (RCO) is a not-for-profit, membership-based organization committed to minimizing society's impact on the environment by eliminating waste. RCO's mission is to inform and educate all members of society about the avoidance of waste, efficient use of resources, and the benefits and/or consequences of these activities. For more visit www.rco.on.ca.

Take Back the Light, whose start-up was funded by the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change in 2008, encourages commercial buyers of lighting to make responsible choices: whether an industrial area or a series of office areas buyers leverage their purchasing influence to choose sellers and retailers that extend their services to include proper recycling. The program also developed an independent first-of-its-kind recycling standard that ensures full recovery of mercury and accountability of all material to final disposition. For more visit www.TakeBacktheLight.ca.

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