JULY 2009

Maine passes law requiring bulb makers pay for recycling

With nearly unanimous support, the Maine Legislature passed new, first-in-the-nation, legislation to reduce mercury pollution by requiring compact fluorescent light bulb manufacturers to share the costs and responsibility for recycling their mercury-containing bulbs. Similar bills are now pending in Massachusetts and Vermont.

“Maine has once again demonstrated national leadership to prevent toxic pollution,” said Matt Prindiville, Clean Production project director for Natural Resources Council of Maine. “Mercury-containing bulbs need to be recycled, and this bill ensures ongoing funding for a collection program that works well for consumers and our environment.”

This law puts the responsibilities for bulb recycling into the hands of the private sector. It has producers, not taxpayers, pay for the collection and recycling of bulb, with lamp makers having an incentive to manage costs in the most efficient way.

The law sets a standard to limit the mercury content of all lighting, lowering mercury use and hazards to workers and the environment. It also improves the state’s procurement policy to purchase fluorescent lighting with low mercury content while maximizing energy efficiency and lamp life.

Retailers may choose to serve as collection centers and inform customers and the State provides oversight and informs citizens about the recycling program. Like Maine’s prior laws on thermostats and auto switches, the new law provides a model that other states can follow to reduce toxic pollution.

Compact fluorescent light bulbs are an important part of efforts to reduce energy costs, say environmentalists. Just one CFL can save $30 to $100 on reduced energy costs over its lifetime, but they contain mercury and therefore should not be thrown in the trash.