Nova Scotia

Efficiency Nova Scotia launches new mercury recycling program

Nova Scotians can now drop off lights, appliances and thermostats at various locations and Nova Scotia Power will pay for the recycling.

Dave Hall of Dan-X Recycling hopes the program means more bulbs get recycled at his business

Dave Hall of Dan-X Recycling in Dartmouth dumps a barrel into the machine that recycles compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs. (Jerry West/CBC)

A new Efficiency Nova Scotia program is making it easier for people and businesses to recycle devices containing mercury, such as compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs.

Nova Scotians can now drop off lights, appliances and thermostats at various locations and Nova Scotia Power will pay for the recycling.

Previously, it was difficult to know when and where to take items, says Efficiency Nova Scotia spokesperson Amelia Warren.

"A private retailer may have accepted CFLs at one location, for example, but not another, so it was difficult for consumers to know where they could take products, and those programs may have only been offered at certain times of the year," she said in an email.

Warren says many businesses previously had to pay to recycle mercury-containing devices. While a retailer may have accepted CFL bulbs, it may not have accepted other devices that contained mercury.

CFL bulbs contain about five milligrams of mercury each. Mercury can damage the brain, spinal cord, kidneys and liver of humans and other living organisms.

Mercury dangers

Devices containing mercury are typically treated as hazardous waste, because light bulbs are likely to break if buried in landfills. The mercury they contain can then contaminate water and enter the atmosphere. It does not break down in the environment and accumulates in the bodies of animals as it moves up the food chain.

Dave Hall, president of Dan-X Recycling, a Dartmouth company that recycles bulbs, says he hopes the new initiative means more bulbs are recycled at his company.

He said most bulbs currently go to landfills. While the mercury content for each is small, it adds up. He noted one shipment his company received contained 20,000 bulbs.

"It would accumulate to be a lot of mercury in the environment," he said.

Hall says that to make recycling easier for people, it has to be convenient.

A list of drop-off locations for the initiative can be found on Efficiency Nova Scotia's website.

With files from Jerry West


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