On January 1st, 2014, a federal ban on incandescent light bulbs went into effect. For many, this came as a shock and we started to hear people blaming everyone from David Suzuki to the Green Party to Barack Obama for taking away their beloved incandescent light bulb.
The fact is, the plan first made headlines back in 2007 when it was announced by the Canadian government after similar measures were enacted by other countries in 2005 and 2006. The Canadian government regulated the removal of most incandescent bulbs from retail shelves and for them to be replaced by the likes of compact fluorescent lamps (a.k.a. CFL's). However, the tough regulations are being loosely enforced as rules on recycling this new class of bulb that contain mercury are absent. As a result, the government has proposed allowing incandescent bulbs filled with halogen gas to remain in retail outlets for now.
It seems Canadians are waiting on Environment Canada to enact new regulations that would limit the amount of mercury contained in each CFL. Currently five milligrams of mercury -- less than what is found in an average watch battery, according to Natural Resources Canada -- are in each CFL on the market. Health Canada suggests any item containing mercury must be treated as hazardous waste.
Back in 2007, then Environment Minister John Baird announced at a Home Depot outlet in Ontario that the initiative would reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by more than six million tonnes annually. Recycling of the new CFLs was publicly encouraged at all Home Depots nation wide. Yet, just as the ban on incandescent bulbs comes into effect, Home Depot quietly decided at the end of February that it would no longer offer its compact fluorescent light-bulb-recycling program. In an email from a Home Depot spokesperson regarding the company's decision to no longer provide their recycling program, it explains that "changes to the enforcement of compliance requirements in a number of provinces" as the reason for the company's stance.
So, where can we be environmentally friendly and recycle our CFLs? Lots of places. Currently, Canadian Tire, Rona and Ikea retail outlets take old CFL bulbs with no plans that we have been told of to cease this recycling initiative. (However, a company may change its' mind.)
In addition, here in Calgary we can drop off CFL's (as well as household hazardous waste that shouldn't go down the drain or in the garbage) at a number of drop-off locations around the city. Click below to find one closest to you.
Knowing some basic facts about compact fluorescent lights (eg. last longer, use less electricity, offer different "shades" of light, like bright daylight, or softer light choices) and how easy it is to recycle or properly dispose of them should make the transition from incandescent lights to compact fluorescent ones a pain-free experience.