A large home improvement retailer has decided to quietly pull the plug on its compact fluorescent light-bulb-recycling program nationwide, upsetting an environmental non-profit that has handed out hundreds of thousands of the energy-efficient bulbs in Canada.

Home Depot started selling CFL bulbs, which contain a small amount of mercury, about six years ago. And around the same time they also started collecting the burned-out bulbs — until last week.

An email from a Home Depot spokeswoman said "changes to the enforcement of compliance requirements in a number of provinces" made the company decide to leave the job to other recycling programs in Canada.

Stuart Hickox founded the non-profit One Change and Project Porchlight in 2005, which oversaw the distribution of about 300,000 of the curly fluorescent bulbs in Ottawa alone, with the help of Hydro Ottawa.

Thousands of those bulbs, handed out by 800 volunteers in 2005 and 2006, are about to burn out, he said.

Millions of bulbs

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The non-profit also handed out the bulbs to millions of homes across North America.

"There's a whole issue here about responsible retailing," Hickox said. "If you sell stuff that has hazardous waste in it, a lot of people believe you should be able to take it back there. It was clearly at the heart of their rebranding for the Eco Options program, and frankly, we worked closely with them to make sure that everyone we gave a bulb to understood you could just take it to Home Depot to return it.

"It's just disappointing that this retailer, because they were so out front about simple actions like recycling bulbs, that they've decided not to do that anymore," Hickox said.

Home Depot said it still takes protecting the environment seriously.

"I can tell you that working with our customers, vendors and community partners, the environment continues to be a core part of our business," the company spokeswoman wrote.

"To ensure customers had the time they needed to learn about the change, signs were posted in stores beginning in January. In addition, customers have access through our website and associates to find alternative locations."

In addition to cancelling the CFL bulb recycling program nationwide, Home Depot has also cancelled its paint recycling programs in Ontario and Quebec.

Canadian Tire, Rona and Ikea continue to take old CFL bulbs.

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