Companies in Ontario are encouraged to recycle hazardous waste they produce or sell, but aren't being given enough incentives to do so, according to the head of a not-for-profit that oversees the recycling of compact fluorescent light bulbs.
Recycling Council of Ontario's Jo-Anne St. Godard said the province's Ministry of Environment could be doing a better job of making it easier for large retailers and producers to take back their own waste.
"On the one side you have the government saying … be good stewards and provide recovery and recyling services for the clients that buy your products, but on the other hand operationally they are saying don't get in this business because you are not operating under the same rules as everybody else," said St. Godard.
St. Godard's comments come after home improvement retailer Home Depot quietly ended its compact fluorescent light-bulb-recycling program nationwide.
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.
"After reviewing the program it was clear that third-party agencies are better equipped to manage these kinds of programs," the spokeswoman wrote in a follow-up statement Wednesday.
More waste to end up in municipal yards
More of that waste is going to end up being left for municipalities to deal with if companies start opting out of the programs, St. Godard said.
Even at big recycling yards such as Lacombe Waste Services in Ottawa, there isn't much appetite for light bulbs.
The facility is equipped with a machine called the Bulb Eater, which can turn 1,500 CF lamps into more than 400 kg of glass, plus metal, phosphor and a few dozen grams of mercury.
However, recycling the bulbs costs the waste manager money, as they must pay an end recycler to take the drum of glass off their hands, according to environmental manager Paul Nagy. He said they only take the fluorescent lights to keep customers happy.
"The incentives aren't realistic, is what happened," said Nagy.
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.
A spokesperson for Ikea Canada said the Ottawa store alone took back more than 1,500 bulbs of all kinds in the past month, including 125 CFL bulbs.