Department of Ecology News Release - November 26, 2012

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Washington moving forward to create recycling program for mercury lights

OLYMPIA – The Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) has adopted a rule necessary to carry out the state’s Mercury-Containing Lights Product Stewardship Program. Under a law passed in 2010, consumers of mercury-containing lights such as fluorescent tubes and compact fluorescent bulbs will be able to recycle them safely, conveniently, and at no cost.

The law creates a producer-financed product stewardship program to collect, transport and recycle residential lights, beginning Jan. 1, 2013.

As more people switch to energy-efficient lighting that contains mercury, disposal of these lights creates environmental problems. It’s unsafe to discard burnt-out (spent) fluorescent lights in the trash. The law also makes this illegal beginning Jan. 1.

The rule guides and clarifies how the product stewardship program will be carried out. It covers:

Broken fluorescent lights expose workers, residents and children to toxic mercury vapors. Mercury is a potent neurotoxin. Releasing it into the environment is a threat to public health.

Proper recycling of spent lights reduces the release of mercury into the environment -- and allows the glass, metals and other components in these lights to be put to new uses.

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Media Contacts:

Kathy Davis, Ecology media relations, 360-407-6149, kathy.davis@ecy.wa.gov

Kara Steward, Ecology Waste 2 Resources, 360-407-6250, kara.steward@ecy.wa.gov 

For more information:

Mercury-Containing Lights Product Stewardship website (www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/swfa/mercurylights/)

Rulemaking (173-910 WAC) website (www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/swfa/mercurylights/rulemaking.html)

Ecology’s social media (www.ecy.wa.gov/about/newmedia.html)