Vermont adopts lamp producer responsibility law

Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin signed into law a bill requiring manufacturers of mercury-containing lamps to establish and finance a recycling program for spent bulbs from residents and small businesses. Vermont became the third state in the country to establish such an extended producer responsibility (EPR) program.

The Governor said the new law is an important environmental measure, key in helping protect Vermont’s waterways and natural environment from the problems associated with mercury pollution. Under the new law, recycling costs will be paid by the manufacturer, consistent with other product stewardship legislation enacted in Vermont and around the country.

Mercury-containing lamps, such as compact fluorescent bulbs, have significant benefits in terms of energy efficiency and cost-savings.

However, these bulbs also contain small amounts of mercury – a known neurotoxin – which makes proper recycling of the lamps critically important.

Along with earlier laws passed in Maine and Washington, the approach taken in Vermont provides a financially sustainable means of preventing the release of mercury into the environment by recycling lamps and keeping them out of landfills and incinerators. This industry funded approach will be increasingly important as state and local agencies around the country face growing budget cuts, while anticipating increased use of CFLs under new federal lighting efficiency standards, scheduled to take effect in 2012.

There are more than 60 state producer responsibility laws around the country that require product manufacturers to provide for the collection and recycling of electronics, mercury thermostats, mercury auto switches, and other products that cause unintended environmental impacts if not properly managed. Additionally, like Vermont’s new law, laws requiring mercury content standards have been adopted in California and Maine, modeled after new standards recently adopted by the European Union.