What is it?
The federal government put a partial ban on incandescent (regular) light bulbs in 2014. Most residents have replaced them with fluorescent lights, either tubes or compact bulbs, which provide the same light using about one sixth of the energy and generally lasting 4-5 times longer. Some retailers accept used fluorescent bulbs back for recycling, but there are currently no province-wide programs established.
What is the issue?
Fluorescent tubes use mercury vapour to produce light. Human exposure to mercury can cause brain, nerve, kidney, and lung damage. One 4-foot fluorescent tube can contain 3 – 40mg of mercury vapour. The mercury is sealed in the bulb, so it is only hazardous if the tube is broken.
One gram (1,000mg) of mercury can contaminate the water in a 20-acre lake and render the fish in it unfit for consumption. In Canada alone, fluorescent lighting waste contributes roughly 1,150 kilograms of mercury each year to Canadian landfills.
Where can it go?
In Saskatchewan, fluorescent bulbs and tubes are collected for recycling by a few retailers, including London Drugs and RONA. They are also collected as part of Household Hazardous Waste Collection events, which are hosted by certain communities. Please visit our recycling Waste Reduction Hub for options near you.
Saskatchewan is home to a fluorescent light recycler, K-Light Recycling in Regina. K-Light processes commercial lights as well as the ones collected by London Drugs.
What happens after?
Fluorescent bulbs contain glass, metal, mercury, and plastics. The bulbs are broken under controlled conditions and the mercury vapour is recovered for further processing. The glass is recycled into reflective beads for highway paint, used in sandblasting operations, or as a road base material. Mercury is processed through an intense heat and distillation process, then reused. The plastic and metal materials are sent for recycling into new products.
How can I reduce?
Keep fluorescent bulbs and tubes that are not being used in a safe place to prevent breakage.
Turn the lights off when you leave the room. This will reduce the cost of your electricity bill and prolong the life of your light bulbs.
LED light bulbs are a mercury-free alternative that are extremely long-lasting and even more energy efficient than fluorescent bulbs.