Solid Waste & Recycling

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A Bright Idea

The Recycling Council of Ontario (RCO) and Toronto District School Board (TDSB) are pioneering a new environmental stewardship project to recover and recycle fluorescent tube lighting from Toronto Dis...


The Recycling Council of Ontario (RCO) and Toronto District School Board (TDSB) are pioneering a new environmental stewardship project to recover and recycle fluorescent tube lighting from Toronto District School Board schools in order to keep more mercury out of landfills.

The program is slated to recover 48,000 lamps in six months from 600 buildings, thereby recovering at least 557 grams — over half a kilogram — of mercury, and avoiding their deposition into Ontario landfills and incinerators.

The pilot is based on a unique arrangement between all parties associated with fluorescent lamps, from producer to distributor to user and finally to recycler. This arrangement ensures proper environmental stewardship and sharing of the financial costs of recovering and recycling mercury-containing fluorescent lamps.

As part of its drive toward environmental stewardship TDSB had wanted to ensure proper management of mercury-containing fluorescent lamps. As lamp suppliers to TDSB, Osram-Sylvania and Wolf Electric and Lighting worked with the RCO to develop a reverse distribution system for spent lamps whereby spent fluorescent lamps recovered from each TDSB school will be transported to Fluorescent Lamp Recyclers in Ayr, Ontario for recycling. The pick-up of spent lamps will coincide with delivery of new lamps by Wolf Electric and Lighting. Once received by FLR, FLR will ensure that 98 per cent by weight of each lamp recovered will be recycled back into useful products.

“The pilot project is a very important first step to address the estimated 27 million fluorescent lamps that are currently ending up in Ontario’s waste stream,” says Jo-Anne St. Godard, Executive Director with the RCO. “This pilot demonstrates leadership by the Recycling Council of Ontario program partners who believe in the importance of proper management of these mercury-containing products and the opportunities to preserve their resources through recycling and reuse.”

There are about 30 million fluorescent lamps sold into Ontario annually with over 90 per cent of these lamps currently ending up in the waste stream. The 30 million lamps are comprised of 8.8 million kilograms of glass, 110,000 kilograms of metals, 140,000 kilograms of phosphor and almost one metric tonne of mercury.

According to Environment Canada, “…the main effects of mercury exposure to humans are understood to be neurological, renal (kidney), cardiovascular and immunological impacts. Chronic exposure to mercury can cause damage to the brain, spinal cord, kidneys (and) liver…” The ultimate proper disposal of the mercury from lamp recycling programs is an item to monitor in new programs as they’re announced, as people increasingly switch to money-saving fluorescent bulbs.

Contact RCO Executive Director Jo-Anne St. Godard at joanne@rco.on.ca


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