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 at end-of-life despite Canada possessing state-of-the-art recycling facilities that can service the bulk of the population. Bill C-238 will nationalize efforts to capture mercury, facilitate a harmonized approach to protect human and environmental health, and maximize 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. The Act is important and relevant legislation that will lead to greater capture of mercury.
In addition to Bill C-238, the Government of Canada recently ratified the 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. Bill C-238 will serve as an important tactic toward achieving these objectives.
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.
As part of Bio C-238's progression to become law, RCO was invited to address the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources. In doing so, RCO spoke to the importance of the proper management of mercury-containing lamps, and that national standards on handling and disposing of this hazardous material will benefit environment and human health.
RCO is a member-based non-profit environmental organization whose mandate is the elimination of waste. Membership is multi-stakeholder and represents supply and value chains; and includes governments, institutions, business and industry, consumers and the public, academics and researchers. Work falls into three main pillars: education and programs; advocacy and policy; and research and pilot projects.
Since 1978 RCO's commitment to Reduce, Reuse, Recycle has driven its actions, and is the bedrock of efforts to facilitate the efficient use of resources to transition the economy from a linear take-make-dispose to a circular model where post-consumed materials are integrated back into use and production cycles.
About Take Back the Light
Owned and operated by RCO, Take Back the Light is Canada’s leading light recycling program for businesses and institutions, and provides a simple low-cost opportunity to have fluorescent lamps and light fixtures to be 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. The program also has a first-of-its-kind recycling standard that ensures full recovery of mercury and accountability of all material to final disposition.