What we heard report from national forum on lamp disposal: Summary of discussion on potential strategy elements

A summary of the main points raised by participants in discussion on the potential strategy elements follows. For more detail, refer to the full list of participant recommendations in Appendix B.

Public awareness, education and participation

Participant view of current state and desired outcomes for Public awareness, education and participation

Forum participants shared a number of insights on the current state of public awareness, education and participation around the safe and environmentally-sound disposal of mercury-containing lamps.

Although there is generally a high level of awareness that mercury is toxic, it was noted that many Canadians are still unaware that compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), fluorescent tubes and other lightbulbs (referred to as lamps in this report) contain mercury, and there appear to be low levels of awareness around how to safely dispose of them.  Although Canadians are becoming more environmentally conscious and are motivated to do the right thing, the proper disposal and recycling of mercury-containing lamps is not top of mind for consumers because of the long lifespan of these products.

Participants highlighted a number of successful programs and campaigns across the country, including ‘call to recycle’ programs, displays at point-of-sale, mail-outs, posters, TV advertising, mobile apps and pamphlets. It was clear that there are many players involved in raising public awareness and participation, including municipalities, industry associations, retailers and stewardship organizations. There was a general feeling however that all of these players are ‘doing their own thing’ and that efforts are uncoordinated.

From the discussions, it was clear that better public education, awareness and participation is needed – and in fact critical to the success of recycling efforts. There was recognition that this was a shared responsibility amongst all levels of government, industry and non-governmental organizations.

In terms of a desired outcome, participants wanted to see a multi-pronged approach to raising public awareness, education and participation in end-of-life lamp programs. A number of desired outcomes and targets were identified, including:

  • Implementation of a national awareness campaign, supported by convenient collection and recycling programs (e.g., retail take-back options) in communities across the country.
  • Development of clear and consistent messaging for each target audience, including but not limited to consumers, retailers, tradespeople, children/youth, northern, remote and Indigenous communities.
  • Development of clear and consistent labeling on mercury-containing products at point-of-sale and at collection sites.
  • Mobilization of youth to lead change and influence household practices through education curriculums and school-based programs.
  • Inclusion of education on end-of-life management of lamps and other products containing mercury in the promotion of new products, energy efficiency requirements and other environmental programs.
  • Proper technician training for end-of-life management of mercury-containing products.

Participant recommendations

Forum participants identified and discussed solutions and actions that would address the challenges related to public education, awareness and participation, and help achieve the desired outcome. A number of participant recommendations emerged from the table discussions, as summarized below.

  • Develop and deploy a national information and awareness campaign: Participants recommended developing a national awareness campaign that can be tailored at the regional level. They also recommended:
    • Targeting students from kindergarten through post-secondary education through school curriculums;
    • Ensuring there is clear and easy-to-understand information available for consumers at point-of-sale, and;
    • Piggy-backing on the efforts of existing awareness programs and campaigns.
  • Develop messaging for key audience segments in all sectors (residential, industrial, commercial, and institutional [ICI], etc.): Participants noted this must include messaging on the hazards associated with mercury-containing lamps to human health and the environment, the importance of end-of-life management, collection options available, and a strong call to action.
  • Focus initially on the ICI and the construction, renovation, and demolition (CRD) sectors: These sectors were seen as areas where change could be brought about swiftly. It was noted promoting guidance and best practices throughout these sectors would go a long way towards achieving desired outcomes.
  • Increase collection sites/options and improve access: The focus here was on making collection as convenient and accessible as possible to make it easy for spent lamps to be returned across the country. One suggestion was to combine or expand collection sites to handle multiple materials and serve as a ‘one stop shop’. It was noted the accessibility of collection options could be used as a metric to measure public participation.
  • Influence the procurement practices of the ICI sector: Specifically, recommendations were made to:
    • Develop standard recycling clauses for tenders and contracts, and;
    • Communicate with businesses and institutions to encourage them to move this issue forward through changes in their procurement processes.
  • Develop training programs for industry professionals: The recommendation was to provide training (to contractors, electricians, lighting engineers, property managers, workers who handle spent lamps, etc.) on the hazards posed by mercury-containing products and proper management to prevent releases.
  • Improve package labelling on products containing mercury: While labelling does indicate when mercury is present in a lamp, there was a strong call to include clear information on how to safely dispose of the product. There was also a desire to see labelling standardized across the country.

To read the full list of participant recommendations generated by the table discussion groups, refer to Appendix B.

Data, measurement, reporting and tracking

Participant view of current state and desired outcomes

Participants shared a number of insights on the current state of data, reporting and tracking for the lifecycle of lamps containing mercury.

Participants indicated that measurement and reporting is driven by provincial regulations, which are not harmonized at the national level. A lack of standardization in measurement methodologies means metrics being reported on are different across the country (e.g., recovery rate, counting bulbs by unit vs. weight or volume). There was also concern that assumptions are made in reporting (e.g., in converting tonnage to units). In addition, it was noted data is sometimes dated due to infrequent reporting. Strengthening data collection, tracking and reporting was seen by stakeholders as a key priority.

Participants identified a number of important elements for effective data collection, reporting, measurement and tracking:

  • Common measurement parameters for reporting purposes, including standardized methodologies, benchmarks, metrics and units of measurement.
  • Federal leadership (e.g., around establishing common measurement parameters).
  • Clear and common terminology and definitions (especially important when multiple languages are involved).
  • A central repository for data management.
  • Frequent and regular reporting that keeps pace with technology and market innovation and trends.
  • Transparency in reporting.
  • An accountability and oversight mechanism.

Participant recommendations

Participants made a number of recommendations around how to improve data, reporting and tracking, including:

  • Establish standard definitions: This was seen as an important goal for the National Strategy so that stakeholders across the country are using common terminology.
  • Update waste definitions so that products destined for reclamation are exempt from the hazardous waste definition.
  • Develop standardized metrics and benchmarks to measure diversion rates: This was seen as important to help local and regional performance measurement initiatives align at the national level.
  • Develop a common reporting tool with a clear and consistent set of requirements for data capture and reporting, and a national database to house the collected data.
  • Develop a metric to measure public awareness and participation in lamp recycling programs (e.g., accessibility of recycling programs and events).

Other recommendations were to:

  • Compile information on current collection infrastructure across Canada to develop a better picture of the current state, inform accessibility assessments and help close gaps.
  • Establish an advisory committee with representation from all levels of government, the private sector and non-governmental organizations to help provide further insights and recommendations around data collection, analysis and reporting. It was noted the committee’s role could later be extended to strategy implementation.

To read the full list of participant recommendations generated by the table discussion groups, refer to Appendix B.

Best practices and guidance for environmentally sound end-of-life management

Participant view of current state and desired outcomes

With regard to the state of best practices and guidance for environmentally sound end-of-life management of lamps containing mercury, participants noted there are a number of different standards stakeholders are adhering to. Inconsistent (and sometimes contradictory) messaging around best practices was seen as an issue, and participants noted there are gaps in guidance that it would be important to fill, for example around:

  • Recycling of lamp components (e.g. glass).
  • Use, maintenance, and health and safety training for drum top crushers.

Environment and Climate Change Canada's (ECCC) Code of Practice for the Environmentally Sound Management of End-of-Life Lamps Containing Mercury (the Code of Practice) was seen as a useful tool – though participants questioned whether this information is effectively getting pushed out. Raising awareness of the Code of Practice and promoting its use was seen as a key priority.

Participant recommendations

Forum participants recommended the following with regard to guidance documentation:

  • Collaborate around the development of national guidelines, flexible in scope, that would target both the residential and ICI sectors.
  • Produce national guidance on landfill bans of mercury-containing products.
  • Develop best practices and guidance around the recycling of lamp components, the use of processing equipment and drum top crushers.
  • Introduce recycling standards for end-of-life chain steps (lamp collection, transportation, processing, disposal), with certification and auditing provided by an independent third party.

Participants recommended the following to improve education and training:

  • Promote existing tools and resources (especially those relating to health and safety).
  • Develop new education and training resources where there are gaps.
  • Establish a central repository (online) of training resources that are applicable to users at each lifecycle stage.

To read the full list of participant recommendations generated by the table discussion groups, refer to Appendix B.

Northern, remote and Indigenous communities

Participant view of current state and desired outcomes

The current state of management of lamps containing mercury varies widely across northern, remote and Indigenous communities. Available infrastructure and capacity at the municipal level varies widely,Footnote 4  and some communities and regions are more advanced than others on this issue.

Participants noted some key challenges to overcome in the current environment include a lack of leadership and/or coordination capacity, high transportation costs (some communities are without year-round road access), a lack of adequate facilities for secure storage and a lack of processing equipment. Unattended collection sites were highlighted as a key problem in several communities. Forum discussions revealed the need for a separate approach to addressing the unique issues and challenges faced by northern, remote and Indigenous communities.

Forum participants discussed what would be an appropriate outcome for the National Strategy with regard to improving end-of-life lamp management in northern, remote and Indigenous communities. At the end of the day, forum participants wanted to see community members and the private sector actively engaged in diversion activities, with high levels of awareness around the importance of proper end-of-life management of mercury-containing lamps. Another desired outcome was to have sufficient collection sites, events, or other recycling options for these communities.

Ultimately, a focus on transitioning away from mercury-containing lamps by phasing them out in favour of those that do not contain mercury (rather than investing in collection, storage or shipping) was seen as a part of the desired solution.

Participant recommendations

Participants made a number of recommendations to help achieve the desired outcomes outlined above. Key themes that emerged from the discussions have been summarized below. To read the full list of participant recommendations generated by the table discussion groups, refer to Appendix B.

  • Establish and leverage strategic partnerships: Participants recommended making this a priority for northern, remote and Indigenous communities due to the relatively small populations and limited resources of these communities. It was noted partnerships with neighbouring communities, the private sector and not-for-profit organizations can help achieve economies of scale (by regionalizing services and programs) and be beneficial with regard to the pooling of resources (leveraging existing infrastructure and sharing capacity, equipment and staff). Participants suggested partnerships could be sought with existing recycling programs, community organizations, housing corporations, stewardship or environmental groups, shipping and transportation companies, utilities, mining companies, large commercial operators, retailers and other stakeholders. For example, it was noted:
    • Transportation companies can help backhaul waste for recycling or treatment/disposal.
    • Utilities can assist with LED swap-out programs.
    • Major retailers can help in the collection and shipping of spent (used) lamps.
    • Existing recycling, waste or environmental programs (e.g., for paint, batteries) can help raise public awareness and with collection activities.
  • Seek out and engage community champions: It was noted local champions who are familiar with the local context and existing infrastructure would be able to help assess community needs, coordinate logistics, disseminate information, raise awareness, engage/mobilize the community and facilitate collection activities/swap-out programs.
  • Establish a program to help northern, remote and Indigenous communities transition away from the use of lamps containing mercury: There was support for LED swap-out programs and courier programs to help phase-out lamps containing mercury, especially in limited-access communities. Funding a pilot project to explore different potential options in multiple communities was identified as a first step forward.
  • Develop a specialized public awareness/education campaign and resources with targeted messaging in local languages.

The ‘Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action’ booklet was highlighted as an important reference tool for planning.

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