CFLs and fluorescent tubes not allowed in landfills

Compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) contain mercury and when they are being disposed of, they are considered hazardous waste and there are specific procedures to follow. CFLs cannot just be thrown into the garbage when they are burnt out or broken. This is because mercury is considered to be toxic and, therefore, CFLs are not allowed in the solid-waste stream at community landfills. Daniela Damoc, who is the program co-ordinator for the Product Care Association, says it’s the CFL manufacturers responsibility to recycle their products when they are broken or no longer working. LightRecycle – the B.C. Fluorescent Light Recycling Program – began in July 1, 2010 and collections depots were set up to take CFLs and residential fluorescent tubes. To that end, Damoc notes there are around 170 collection centres throughout the province, and one of those is Century Hardware in 100 Mile House. She adds anyone who has a dead or broken CFL should bring it into the store where it will be stored in sealed boxes until they can be trucked to a recycling processor facility. “The boxes are transported to processors in Canada. These facilities are approved by the Ministry of Environment and our association. Basically, what they do is put them in the processor that will separate the glass and aluminum and the mercury.” Damoc explains glass is the largest amount reclaimed, and the aluminum comes from the end caps of the tubes. Noting the mercury is captured through a carbon-filter system and sold into the marketplace, she says there are three to four milligrams of mercury in each CFL. “It is sold on the market like every other product that’s recycled.” Due to security issues, Damoc says she’s not allowed to divulge were the processors are located. Because her association is only required to provide annual figures on how many CFLs and fluorescent tubes it has collected and transported to the processors, Damoc says she isn’t sure of the numbers. “We’ll have a better picture of how much we’ve collected in July 2011. I could guess, but I wouldn’t be comfortable with that.” However, she notes the use of the collection sites has increased significantly as the word gets out about where the burnt out and broken CFLs can be dropped off. “Absolutely, there’s more use as it’s being promoted and our dealers are handing out brochures. We expect to have another advertising campaign this year to remind people the program is available. Damoc says her association is the program manager for LightRecycle, which is mandated by the BC Recycling Regulations. She adds they are part of the Electrical Equipment Manufacturers Association of Canada, which must have end-of-life programs for its goods in place by July 1, 2012. In 2009, the provincial government started down the path of replacing the use incandescent bulbs with CFLs through its energy Efficiency Standards regulations. Under the new standard and starting Jan. 1 of this year, retailers are prohibited from carrying 75- and 100-watt incandescent bulbs. These bulbs will only be available until retailers’ stocks run out. However, other incandescent bulbs are not affected and will still be available in stores. People wanting more information about CFL recycling, can go to www.productcare.org.