The bill is important because it promotes a healthy environment and a strong economy at the same time. It involves the development of a natural strategy for the safe disposal of lamps containing mercury.
Before I begin my remarks, I want to thank the hon. member for his leadership on environmental issues. He has been an advocate for the environment within our caucus in Nova Scotia, Atlantic Canada, his community at large, and, of course, by virtue of the bill in this House as well.
As many people already know in this House, the member was formerly a municipal councillor and deputy mayor of Halifax Regional Municipality. His legacy as an environmental leader carries on today from his time in that position. I want to thank him for his continued leadership on these issues. He has even taken the opportunity to meet with individuals who live in my riding and are trying to promote environmental products and drive the economy. They are outside of HRM, but he recognizes the benefit it will have on our region of Atlantic Canada as a whole.
From every corner of the country, whether it is my friends in Joe Batt's Arm, on Fogo Island, Tuktoyaktuk, or Vancouver Island, Canadians by and large are trying to promote a healthier environment to combat climate change. Finding more energy efficient options to household products is a great and easy place to start.
We have known for some time that energy-efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs, or CFLs, as many people know them, are easy and long-lasting ways to cut down on the amount of energy we use in our homes every day. For this reason, many of us have used CFLs over the years. There are 75% of Canadians in large cities who have at least one of these light bulbs in their homes today.
Canadians know that protecting the environment is important for our health and safety, but also, and as a new parent, for the health and safety of our children and our grandchildren as well. This is an important motivating factor. When Canadians purchase energy-efficient lamps, they are doing something in a small way to improve the future for other generations.
They may not be aware of the proper process for disposing of these environmentally friendly products once they have them in the home, which is also very important. It is important because when it is not done correctly, these products can release toxic substances into our environment, in particular in this case, mercury, as many of the hon. members have pointed out in their remarks on the bill already.
Mercury is actually a very useful substance. It appears in many consumer and commercial products. It is a great conductor of electricity. It reacts to temperature and pressure changes, which is why it is in everyone's thermometer. However, when products containing mercury are broken or when they are disposed of in a landfill, as they often are today, the mercury can get into the environment and have an adverse impact on our ecosystems, because it is highly toxic.
The more fragile products, such as fluorescent lamps, may also break during transportation and release mercury into the air. The EPA, in the United States, estimates that 3% of the total mercury in discarded fluorescent lamps is released to the atmosphere during transportation to a disposal facility.
If a product that contains mercury ends up in a landfill, the mercury can leach into the surrounding soil or be released into the atmosphere. If waste containing mercury is incinerated, the amount of mercury released into the atmosphere may be even higher. Without pollution controls, almost all of the mercury contained in waste entering an incinerator will be released into the air.
The best way to prevent mercury releases to the environment is to send lamps for proper recycling, instead of throwing them away.
Improving public awareness about the need for safe disposal and recycling of used lamps is very important. Canadians want to know how to best deal with these products, and they want to know that their government is taking steps to reduce these risks.
As one of my colleagues from the NDP pointed out, we are not always doing it now because we do not know and we are not made to, but municipalities and industry have taken early action. Many cities have already implemented specific collection programs, and some have incorporated them into household hazardous waste programs.
In B.C., Manitoba, Quebec, and P.E.I., manufacturers and importers are subject to extended producer responsibility regulations and are required to join or implement programs to collect and recycle lamps containing mercury at the end of their life cycle. In Ontario, manufacturers and importers take part in voluntary take-back programs for these kinds of lamps.
This all being said, too many Canadians still dispose of mercury-containing lamps in the garbage simply because they do not know that they contain this harmful substance or they do not understand the importance of safely disposing of these products. In addition, many environmentally sound recycling options are not readily available at this time.
This is precisely the purpose of the bill. It calls on the Minister of Environment and Climate Change to work with different stakeholders and partners to develop and implement a national strategy on the safe disposal of these lamps. The strategy would encourage concerted action by the federal government, as well as other jurisdictions and stakeholders, to shine a light on this important issue.
Increasing public awareness can lead to actions that are going to reduce the harmful impacts of releasing mercury into the atmosphere. The minister is not able to do this without the help of others. We need the provinces, territories, municipal governments, and communities all to have a role to play if we are going to make something happen here.
In addition to environmental groups and industry, which are specifically listed in the bill, we need to collaborate on the safe disposal of mercury with our indigenous communities as well. A careful study of the provisions of the bill would ensure that the national strategy would build on and not simply duplicate work that is already being done in some of the provinces and territories, where some progress has been made in diverting this toxic substance from our landfills.
The bill would provide an opportunity for all jurisdictions and interested stakeholders to work together to develop this national strategy aimed at safely managing these lamps at the end of their lives. The proper end-of-life management of these lamps would allow us to benefit from their energy efficiency qualities without compromising the environment.
In addition, there is a serious economic impact. I know a few members have mentioned the company Dan-X in the riding of the hon. member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour. This is a perfect example of how the environment and the economy can work together and promote one another at the same time.
If there is an environmental problem, such as the unsafe disposal of mercury in our landfills, there are companies that will actually create new jobs in turning what is currently treated as a waste product into a value-added product that can be injected back into the economy. This is new money that is currently literally being thrown into the garbage that would result in more jobs for Central Nova, Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, and every riding across this country if we implement a proper national strategy.
For these reasons, I am proud to be supporting the hon. member's bright idea and would ask that the committee carefully review the provisions of the bill to ensure that we can all work together with every interested party and stakeholder to make this national strategy as effective as it can be. I know the residents of my riding and my region are all going to be better off if they can enjoy a cleaner environment, greater public health, and more jobs for the region.
We are all doing what we can to protect the natural beauty of our wonderful country and we want to for generations to come. The bill would help, at least in a small way, to make a difference for the environment at home.