New recycling regulations for commercial lighting products

Stacked fluorescent bulb ends

If you need to get rid of old commercial lighting products — or if you sell lighting products — it's time to take note of new recycling rules.

This month, legislation kicks in that affects all users and retailers of lamps and lighting fixtures. The regulations will make it free to recycle old lighting products. As well, there will be a "recycling fee" charged on every lamp, ballast or fixture manufactured or imported into B.C.

Free recycling "a really big change"

"The Act [governing recycling] has been in place for a long time, but there are different schedules for different products," explains Jordan Best of Product Care, a non-profit industry association that manages product stewardship programs for hazardous and special waste across Canada. Product Care's LightRecycle program has been in place since July, 2010 for residential-use fluorescent lights, and has expanded this year for all other light types.

Best outlines the two main reasons for the regulation:

  • To shift the cost of managing end-of-life programs for designated products from government to industry.
  • To develop improved collection and recycling systems so that all end users of these products can recycle them without charge.
Jordan Best, Product Care

"That second one is key, and a really big change for the commercial world for this product," says Best. "Some businesses have already been recycling their lighting products, but in many cases there was a charge for commercial users to recycle lamps and PCB-containing ballasts.

"Now the program is required to create a collection system that is free for end users," he says. "And 'without charge' means there's no disincentive for them to recycle."

There is, however, a hefty disincentive not to. Obligated producers that are not part of an approved stewardship program could be fined up to $200,000 a day.

Producers must establish or join a stewardship program

The Recycling Regulation stipulates that all "producers" (including retailers, distributors and manufacturers) of lamps, ballasts and fixtures sold into the residential, commercial and industrial sectors in B.C. are required to be part of an approved stewardship program.

Through the program, producers pay a set recycling fee for each lamp or fixture sold. The recycling fee will be used to fund program costs including the collection, transportation and recycling of end-of-life lights.

Members of the stewardship program can choose if and how they'd like to pass this fee on to their customers. However if a producer shows the fee visibly, as a "recycling fee," the amount must equal the actual fee and cannot be inflated.

"Right now we're the only stewardship program approved by the Ministry of Environment for lighting products in BC," says Best. "Theoretically, any company who is obligated to be part of a stewardship plan could develop their own program for their own products, but so far they have all decided to use Product Care."

At present, B.C. is the only province with light recycling this extensive. However, Best says that will change. "We know that the federal government has been talking to industry and is expected to legislate programs like this for mercury lamps in the next couple of years in all provinces across Canada."

Program at a glance

  • Under the British Columbia Recycling Regulation, recycling for all lamps and lighting fixtures, including those containing PCBs, will be available free of charge, starting October 1, 2012.
  • In addition to the pre-existing sites for recycling residential lamps and fixtures, new sites will open to accept large volumes of lamps from commercial generators.
  • As well, there will be a direct-service pick-up option for businesses that have more than a pallet of lamps to be recycled.

To find the nearest drop-off location or pick up service, visit the LightRecycle website.