Maine Governor John E. Baldacci has signed first-in-the-nation legislation that requires compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulb manufacturers to share the costs and responsibility for recycling their mercury-containing bulbs. The bill goes into effect September 12.
“Passage of this law sends a clear message out nationally (and globally) that a new day is dawning for total life cycle management and shared responsibility–from ‘the cradle to the grave’ for products containing mercury and other hazardous substances,” said Michael Bender, policy project director, for the Mercury Policy Project, in a statement.
Massachusetts, Vermont and California are expected to follow Maine’s lead. All three states have similar bills pending.
Maine’s LD 973 bill, An Act To Provide for the Safe Collection and Recycling of Mercury-containing Lighting, sets a limit for mercury content in all lighting, and improves the state’s procurement policy for the purchase of fluorescent lighting with low mercury content.
The bill requires manufacturers to pay for the collection and recycling of used bulbs, rather than the taxpayers. Manufacturers must submit plans for a recycling program by 2010 and begin collecting the fluorescent bulbs by 2011, reports the Portland Press Herald. Maine officials estimate that only about 5 percent of the bulbs are getting recycled.
Retailers may choose to serve as collection centers and to inform customers about the recycling program, while the state provides oversight for the recycling program. Manufacturers had argued it could raise prices and discourage the use of the energy-efficient lamps, reports the Portland newspaper, but backers of the bill said a large-scale recycling program could cost as little as 15 cents per bulb.
The state also has laws in place to properly recycle other mercury-containing products including fever thermometers and auto switches.
Compact fluorescent light bulbs are an important part of energy-reduction efforts, say environmentalists. Just one CFL can save $30 to $100 on reduced energy costs over its lifetime, but they contain mercury and need to be recycled, says the Natural Resources Council of Maine.