New Washington State Law: Creating No-Charge, Mercury-Containing Light Recycling Program

Residents, environmental groups, and governments applauded today as Governor Christine Gregoire signed into law landmark legislation making Washington state the second state in the nation to require producers of mercury-containing lighting products to fund their recycling.

Sponsored by Senator Craig Pridemore (D-Vancouver) and Representative Sam Hunt (D-Olympia), the law provides a no-cost, statewide recycling program for residents. “We know providing convenient, free-of-charge recycling locations will result in more mercury bulbs and tubes being recycled,” said Lisa Sepanski, Co-chair of the Northwest Product Stewardship Council.

Mercury lighting products including compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) and linear fluorescent tubes save energy but contain toxic mercury which can harm people and our environment. Spent bulbs and tubes are often stockpiled in basements and garages or tossed out with the trash posing a risk to families and solid waste workers. Beginning in 2013, residents will be able to bring fluorescent bulbs and tubes to recycling sites, which may be run by local retailers, recycling centers, governments, and others.

There will be no fee for dropping off these lights. In the new system, manufacturers will pay for the recycling of the lighting products that their industry creates. This approach, already used in Maine, Canada and by many countries in Europe and Asia, is similar to the Electronics Product Recycling Law which created the successful “E-Cycle Washington” program for TVs, computers and monitors. E-Cycle collected 38 million pounds of TVs, computers and monitors across the state in its first year of operation in 2009.

Mercury harms the brain, liver and kidneys and causes developmental disorders in children. It persists in the environment and bio-accumulates in the food web. If thrown in the trash, fluorescent lights can break and expose people and the environment to harmful mercury vapor.

“This is the second producer responsibility bill for lighting products in the U.S.,” said Margaret Shield, Local Hazardous Waste Management Program in King County. The program will be budget-neutral to the state and won’t saddle local governments with an unfunded mandate to collect mercury lighting as industry will provide the financing.

The Northwest Product Stewardship Council (NWPSC) Washington members were part of the coalition, led by the Local Hazardous Waste Management Program in King County, of local governments, environmental organizations and Waste Management working to pass the bill. The mission of the NWPSC is to work together and with other governments, businesses and nonprofit groups to integrate product stewardship (producer responsibility) principles into the policy and economic structures of the Pacific Northwest. More information on the NWPSC is available at SOURCE Northwest Product Stewardship Council and

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