Monday, April 21, 2014

Light bulb ban coming

OTTAWA—A federal ban on inefficient light bulbs goes into effect Jan. 1—almost seven years after it was announced with fanfare by a then-rookie Conservative government.
But the tough regulations are being watered down, and there are no federal rules yet on recycling a class of bulbs that meet the new standard but contain toxic mercury.

The Conservative government announced an aggressive plan in 2007 that effectively would remove most incandescent bulbs from retail shelves in favour of more expensive alternatives, such as compact fluorescent lamps, or CFLs.
The new rules were set to start in 2012, but then were postponed to Jan. 1, 2014 to “allay” consumer concerns about cost and flexibility.
In the meantime, the government proposed allowing a newer kind of incandescent bulb—filled with halogen gas—to remain on store shelves even though it doesn’t meet the tough efficiency standards that were proposed in 2007 when the environment was top of mind for most Canadians.
The relaxed proposed rule about halogen bulbs, which are cheaper than CFLs, is out for public commentary until Dec. 19, and won’t be part of the new regime Jan. 1.
A spokeswoman for Natural Resources says the government intends to implement the halogen exception in a “timely fashion,” depending on feedback, with no deadline set.
And Environment Canada still has not enacted new regulations that would limit the amount of mercury contained in each CFL, and that would compel manufacturers and distributors to recycle them.
The uncertainty and inaction is a far cry from the splashy announcement in 2007, when then-Environment minister John Baird touted the Conservative government’s bold leadership.
Baird told a 2007 news conference staged at a Home Depot outlet in Nepean, Ont. that the light-bulb initiative would reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by more than six million tonnes annually.
He encouraged the recycling of the new CFLs at Home Depot and other retailers voluntarily offering such programs.
Earlier this year, Home Depot ended its CFL recycling program, saying provinces and “third-party agencies are better equipped to manage these kinds of programs.”
A 2012 study for Environment Canada found that Canada’s mercury-waste facilities either are patchwork or non-existent, and that there are no national standards.
Researchers also found that much mercury waste winds up in municipal landfills, where it can leach into groundwater.
The chemical is highly toxic. Minute amounts seriously can damage the nervous system.
As of Jan. 1, 75- and 100-watt incandescent bulbs effectively will be eliminated from store shelves, with 40- and 60-watt versions to follow next Dec. 31.
However, the industry can continue to ship non-efficient bulbs, such as traditional incandescents, as long as they were manufactured before Jan. 1.

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