Ontario is contemplating a ban on curly-shaped, energy-saving compact fluorescent light bulbs from garbage dumps, Environment Minister Glen Murray says.
Acknowledging mercury from the bulbs is at risk of seeping into the environment, Murray told reporters Wednesday that the government will update its waste diversion act and regulations by June.
“That is one of the things that’s on the table right now,” he said of a bulb ban.
The Recycling Council of Ontario says as many as 90 per cent of the bulbs, which use 75 per cent less electricity than traditional light bulbs, are being thrown out with household trash.
Murray agreed with critics that the recycling system for the bulbs needs to be “simplified” and made more “consumer friendly.”
Right now there is a network of stores — Canadian Tire, Rona and Ikea — that will take the bulbs, which can also go to household hazardous waste and community environment day drop-offs that accept other toxic products such as old paint, batteries, solvents and electronics.
“Our system . . . is pretty complicated,” said Murray, noting he would like to see a “one depot system” but has been unable to get the industry and municipalities to sign on to the idea.
New Democrat energy critic Peter Tabuns said the government has done a terrible job with the bulb problem, given that the sale of traditional light bulbs was banned starting in 2014 and better systems should have been in place before then.
“Somewhere the light didn’t go off in their head,” the MPP for Toronto-Danforth said at Queen’s Park.
The plan to ban the sale of traditional light bulbs was first announced in 2007 for a 2012 deadline but that was pushed back two years because the federal government delayed new standards for energy efficient light bulbs.
Tabuns called for a better consumer education campaign highlighting the dangers to the environment and groundwater of compact fluorescent bulbs, and warned a ban would be meaningless without such an effort because people would still put the bulbs in their household garbage.
“If you don’t have a system of information and a system of safe disposal then a ban is not going to be very useful at all.”
There needs to be a “much broader network” of drop-off points for the bulbs, such as corner stores, Tabuns added.
“It has to be a lot simpler.”