Canadians who want to dispose of their mercury-containing light bulbs in an environmentally responsible way will soon have guidance from the federal government on how to do that.
A new act setting out rules for a national light bulb disposal strategy received royal assent on Thursday.
Bill C-238 is officially called the National Strategy for Safe and Environmentally Sound Disposal of Lamps Containing Mercury Act.
The legislation commits the federal government to identifying ways to dispose of mercury-containing light bulbs safely, establishing guidelines for facilities that dispose of them and promoting the program to Canadians.
Dartmouth-Cole Harbour MP Darren Fisher, who introduced the private member’s bill, said right now there are no federal regulations outlining how to dispose of the light bulbs.
“You can take your mercury-bearing light bulb and you can throw it in your garbage bag and put it to the curb,” he said.
One regular, 13-watt residential compact fluorescent light bulb (CFL) — the curly-looking ones that are slowly replacing the traditional, round incandescent bulbs — contains on average 3.5 milligrams of mercury. Energy Star-certified CFLs contain 2.5 milligrams or less.
Some of that mercury contaminates the environment when the bulb is sent to a landfill. Fisher said about 1,150 kilograms of mercury ends up in Canadian landfills each year.
“So this is an incredibly big issue,” he said.
Compact fluorescents on the rise
A 2014 federal ban on most residential incandescent bulbs means more Canadians are using compact fluorescent bulbs. A 2014 report from Statistics Canada noted that in 2011, three-quarters of households across the country used at least one CFL bulb.
About half the households that used CFLs reported throwing them in the garbage, and Haligonians were the most…