We do some very good work together on the environment and sustainable development committee. This is an opportunity to discuss his important idea that has received support thus far from nearly every member. That is not alway easy to do with a private member's bill like this, but he has done it. I want to recognize him and staff for all their hard work on this bill.
This is an important piece of legislation that aims to achieve a good goal. I will be supporting it as it moves forward. Exactly what does this bill do?
First, it establishes national standards for the safe disposal of mercury-containing lamps. Second, it establishes guidelines regarding facilities for safe disposal of mercury lamps. Finally, it asks the government to come up with a plan to promote public awareness of the importance of the proper disposal of mercury lamps. It also calls on the government to table its national strategy within two years of the bill's becoming law, and for it to be reviewed by Parliament every five years after that.
Fluorescent bulbs are in use for a very good reason. They conserve power in a way that conventional light bulbs simply cannot. In fact, they use between 20% and 25% of the energy required by traditional incandescent Edison bulbs. They are the most energy efficient and affordable means of lighting our homes and places of work and leisure. They also last up to 10 times longer than the old-fashioned bulbs. This is why they are so widespread in our communities and should continue to be readily available for the foreseeable future.
Unfortunately, one of the critical components if fluorescent bulbs is mercury. In fact, there is no way to make these bulbs without it. It would be like a fish trying to live out of water; there is simply no way it can. Therefore, it is critical that we carefully dispose of these lamps in a responsible and environmentally conscious way when they finally burn out. Tossing these bulbs into the trash is very detrimental to the environment and human health. Those are the main issues here today.
The issue is that when these bulbs end up in regular landfill with the rest of our household waste, a large portion of the mercury inside the bulbs is released into the air or water. This has debilitating effects on the quality of the air we breathe and the water we drink, two resources that we need to stay alive.
The wonderful thing about this is that recyclers can recuperate the mercury found in these bulbs. There are methods of recycling this toxic substance. Mercury is a dangerous toxic substance that can have a severe impact on human health, especially in vulnerable populations like expectant mothers, as well as their babies developing in the womb. It can cause brain and central nervous system damage. It can also attack kidneys and lungs.
As this is a dangerous toxic substance, I am happy that the bill will help address its disposal from fluorescent lamps. There is definitely an environmental and safety impact from fluorescent bulbs. If they break in a home or workplace, the immediate release of mercury vapours can pose a health risk to people. Not only is this an issue, but there can be also the release of more mercury vapour into the air if the proper cleanup and disposal procedures are not put in place.
There are some other aspects of environmental stewardship that this bill intends to target. It supports the aim of our environment and sustainable development committee in looking at clean technology alternatives to products like fluorescent bulbs. There are a number of best practices for the disposal of mercury bulbs, and I would like to talk about some of those recommended by the Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, in the United States. They have a wealth of ideas on how mercury-containing fluorescent bulbs should be properly disposed of.
One of its recommendations, which may seem obvious, is that spent bulbs be handled with great care to avoid breakage. We have already discussed why it is a bad idea to break fluorescent bulbs. An already broken bulb cannot be properly recycled. It also recommends good strategies for employers, including that they be trained to know whom to call in the case of a burned-out lamp. This would employees taking the initiative to remove or replace burned bulbs, which could possibly lead to breakage.
Another of its recommendation that may seem obvious is for the recycling of fluorescent bulbs that contain mercury. As the EPA states in one of its documents:
EPA strongly encourages the recycling of all spent fluorescent lamps as the preferred approach to managing lamps throughout their full productive lifecycle. Proper recycling not only minimizes the release of mercury in the environment but also allows for the reuse of the glass, metals, and other materials that make up a fluorescent lamp.
Virtually all components of a lamp can be recycled. Recycling fluorescent lamps reduces the amount of waste going to landfill, saves energy, and reduces greenhouse gases and mercury emissions.
The EPA is not alone in having good tips on how to safely dispose of mercury-containing bulbs. Australia's department of environment has established the FluoroCycle program. Its website states:
FluoroCycle is a scheme that aims to increase the recycling of lamps that contain mercury and reduce the amount of mercury entering the environment.
To achieve this, FluoroCycle provides a national voluntary scheme that businesses, government agencies, and other organizations can join as signatories. The scheme gives public recognition to the signatories for their commitment to recycling. This sounds like a really good initiative. Although somewhat different from what this legislation is proposing, it is a good example of how we can bring industry and commerce on board with recycling these mercury fluorescent lamps, instead of simply throwing them away.
This is a great project that our friends from down under have initiated, and I hope that we could maybe consider something similar here. This would only build on the great work done by my honourable friend from Dartmouth—Cole Harbour.
The Republic of Ireland has an interesting program. In Ireland, retailers take old bulbs, as long as new ones are being bought, on a one-for-one basis. This strikes me as a good idea, because this way the retailers can deal with the bulbs' safe disposal and transport to designated recycling facilities, removing the hassle from consumers. It is also good in that these consumers would be buying a new energy efficient fluorescent bulb to replace the spent bulb.
These lights are becoming more common. It seems as though every home, business, and place of work has at least some fluorescent lighting. Statistics Canada has said that, “In 2011, almost 9 out of 10 households (87%) in Canadian census metropolitan areas (CMAs) had at least one type of energy-saving light.” Statistics Canada also had this to offer:
In almost every case, households used only one method to dispose of their dead or unwanted CFLs. In 2011, slightly less than one-third (32%) used a “controlled” method of disposal, with 24% using a depot or drop-off centre, and 8% returning the bulb(s) to the supplier or retailer (Table 2). Half of the households disposing a CFL used an “uncontrolled” method (i.e., throwing them in the garbage), or still had them at the time of interview (12%). The remainder used an unknown method to dispose of them.
These are eye-opening statistics, and I am certain this is one of the reasons my colleague across the way proposed this piece of legislation. He is also a supporter of a recycling facility in his constituency. My colleague has been doing great work on this file. I appreciate he and his team's taking the time to get this right, and I am looking forward to seeing this project move forward.