What we heard report: national strategy for safe and environmentally sound disposal of lamps containing mercury

Executive summary

This report summarizes the proceedings and outcomes of the National Forum for the Development of a National Strategy for Safe and Environmentally Sound Disposal of Lamps Containing Mercury that was hosted by Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) in Ottawa on February 27 and 28, 2018. Fifty-four (54) participants attended the 2-day event, including representatives from provincial, territorial, and municipal governments, Indigenous communities and organizations, as well as industry and civil society from across the country.

At the forum, participants were engaged in working sessions to provide input on a collective vision for the National Strategy and on the following potential elements of a strategy:

  1. Public awareness, education and participation;
  2. Data, measurement, reporting and tracking;
  3. Best practices and guidance for environmentally sound end-of-life management; and
  4. Northern, remote and Indigenous communities.

They also shared a number of important views on what they felt should be overall priorities for the National Strategy, and on how to engage stakeholders in the development of the National Strategy moving forward.

Purpose of this report

This report was prepared independently for Environment and Climate Change Canada by the Intersol Group. It draws upon and highlights a sampling of stakeholder views raised at the forum. The full list of participant recommendations generated at the forum can be found in Appendix B.

Important to note, the views and perspectives contained herein are those of participants as expressed at the meeting and are not intended to represent the views of Environment and Climate Change Canada. In addition, a wide range of stakeholder perspectives were heard at the forum and the discussion summaries contained herein are merely a summary - they do not imply consensus on the part of all participants.

If you wish to submit a perspective or comment that you feel should be part of the report, please submit comments to the ECCC Mercury Team by emailing the team at Mercury Wastes.

Discussion outcomes

The forum represented a key step towards developing a National Strategy for Safe and Environmentally Sound Disposal of Lamps Containing Mercury. Participants were actively engaged in discussion throughout the event and the discussions were rich and meaningful. At the end of the day, building on the stakeholder feedback and other information gathered to date, participants actively contributed to defining:

  • A collective vision for the National Strategy;
  • Desired outcomes;
  • Elements to be included in the strategy;
  • Proposed priority actions, and;
  • What needs to be done to engage all stakeholders in the development of the National Strategy.

A snapshot of the forum highlights follows. For more detail, refer to the body of this report and the supporting material in appendices.

Participant vision, priority areas and next step recommendations

Ultimately, protection of the environment and human health was identified by participants as the key driver behind the National Strategy. Participants’ vision for the future included high levels of public awareness and participation around this issue. They also wanted to see all those involved in the lamp life cycle contributing to improving diversion of spent lamps to lamp processing facilities and out of landfills.

To achieve this, participants felt strongly the National Strategy should be action-oriented, have clearly defined roles and responsibilities, and have clear targets and measures to track progress towards achieving goals and desired outcomes.

At the end of the day, some of the participants’ top priorities for the National Strategy included:

  • Creating and implementing a public education and awareness strategy for the environmentally sound end-of-life management of mercury-containing lamps, with campaigns that target various population segments. The industrial, commercial, and institutional (ICI) sector was recommended as an early focus for these efforts;
  • Developing a common measurement and reporting framework, including standard metrics and benchmarks;
  • Starting a separate conversation with northern, remote and Indigenous communities with a view to fostering engagement, seeking out local champions, establishing partnerships, and exploring pilot projects, and;
  • Developing practical indicators to evaluate the effectiveness of the National Strategy (e.g., metrics to measure public awareness and participation in lamp recycling programs).

Participants discussed what the next steps might look like for the National Strategy, and those were directly in line with the priority areas listed above, with one additional recommendation, which was to engage all relevant stakeholders in the development of the National Strategy.  Participants suggested a wide range of stakeholders; including provincial and territorial governments, regional authorities, Indigenous organizations, municipalities, industry, non-governmental organizations and community organizations.

Snapshot of discussion highlights on the potential strategy elements

Highlights that emerged from the table discussions on each proposed strategy element have been summarized below. For the full list of participant recommendations, please see Appendix B.

Public Awareness, Education and Participation:

  • Better public education, awareness, and participation is needed – and in fact critical to the success of recycling efforts.
  • Developing and deploying a national information and awareness campaign was seen as a key priority for the National Strategy. An initial focus on the ICI sector was recommended.
  • Increasing access to and awareness of collection options were also seen as top priorities.

Data, Measurement, Reporting and Tracking:

  • Strengthening data collection, tracking and reporting was seen as a key priority for a National Strategy and ultimately as a mechanism to understand whether proper end-of-life lamp management is effective now and in the future when the Strategy is implemented.
  • Participants wanted to see the National Strategy establish common definitions which would be used across jurisdictions of measurement parameters for reporting purposes, including standardized methodologies, benchmarks and metrics.

There was support for developing a network where all Forum participants and interested parties could share information such as best practices, guidance and knowledge. Best Practices and Guidance for Environmentally Sound End-of-Life Management:

  • Raising awareness of ECCC’s Code of Practice for the Environmentally Sound Management of End-of-Life Lamps Containing Mercury and promoting its use was seen as a key priority.
  • There was support for the development of national guidelines, flexible in scope, that would target both the residential and ICI sectors.
  • Introducing recycling standards for end-of-life chain steps was another top suggestion, as well as looking into allowing the transportation of lamps destined for reclamation to be exempt from the hazardous waste definition.

Northern, Remote and Indigenous Communities:

  • There will not be a one-size-fits-all solution for northern, remote and Indigenous communities, and efforts will need to be tailored to fit the unique needs and circumstances of each community.
  • Establishing partnerships and identifying local champions were among top priorities for participants.
  • Another top suggestion was to establish a program to help northern, remote and Indigenous communities transition away from the use of lamps containing mercury.
  • Developing targeted education and awareness programs for northern, remote and Indigenous communities was a common recommendation.

Next steps

ECCC will continue to work with the Forum participants and other jurisdictions, governments, key stakeholders, and interested parties on the development of the National Strategy through the spring and summer of 2018.


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