Solid Waste & Recycling


Plan recycles fluorescent tubes in Toronto schools

The Recycling Council of Ontario and Toronto District School Board are pioneering a new environmental stewardship p...

The Recycling Council of Ontario and Toronto District School Board 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. The partners include fluorescent lamp manufacturer Osram-Sylvania, fluorescent lamp distributor Wolf Electric and Lighting, the Toronto District School Board and fluorescent lamp recycler Fluorescent Lamp Recyclers Inc.

“Preventing mercury from contaminating our soil and water is vital to protecting our environment and the health and safety of Ontarians,” said Ontario’s Minister of the Environment Laurel Broten. “This pilot project is a win-win for the environment. Not only will it divert mercury from landfills, it will encourage the recycling of a heavily used product.”

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…”

About the Recycling Council of Ontario

The Recycling Council of Ontario is a not-for-profit, membership-based organization committed to minimizing society’s impact on the environment by eliminating waste. RCO’s mission is to inform and educate all members of society about the generation of waste, the avoidance of waste, the more efficient use of resources and the benefits and/or consequences of these activities. Since its inception in 1978, RCO has actively assisted municipalities, corporations, other organizations and individuals in reducing their waste.

For more information contact:

Jo-Anne St. Godard, RCO Executive Director, 416-657-2797 ext 1 or Greg McDonald, 416-657-2707 ext. 5.

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