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Ecology seeks comment on proposed rule for Mercury-Containing Lights Product Stewardship Program

The Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) proposes adopting a rule that is necessary to carry out the law creating the state's Mercury-Containing Lights Product Stewardship Program. Ecology invites the public to comment on the proposed rule.

Washington lawmakers passed the law during the 2010 legislative session. It establishes a producer-financed product stewardship program to collect, transport and recycle residential mercury-containing lights such as fluorescent tubes and compact fluorescent bulbs. Consumers of these lights will be able to recycle them safely, conveniently, and at no cost.

As more people switch to energy-efficient lighting that contains mercury, disposal of these lights creates environmental problems. It's unsafe to discard burnt-out (spent) fluorescent lights in the trash; it will also be illegal beginning Jan. 1, 2013 under this law.

Broken fluorescent lights expose workers, residents and children to toxic mercury vapors. Mercury is a potent neurotoxin. Releasing it into the environment is a threat to public health.

Proper recycling of spent lights reduces the release of mercury into the environment -- and allows the glass, metals and other components in these lights to be put to new uses.

The new law requires Ecology to establish rules to implement this program. The purpose of this rule is to clarify the following:

* Responsibilities of producers, wholesalers, retailers, distributors, and electric utilities to safely recycle residential mercury-containing lights sold in Washington state.
* How administration, enforcement and oversight costs will be reimbursed.
* Program requirements, such as product stewardship plan, outreach and education efforts, and annual reporting requirements.
* Requirements for collecting, transporting, processing and recycling of mercury-containing lights.
* Process for enforcing the law.

The comment period is open now and ends on Aug. 14, 2012. The public can give Ecology comments in the following ways:
1.      Visit our website at: http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/swfa/mercurylights/rulemaking.html
2.      Email your comments to: kara.steward@ecy.wa.gov
3.      Mail comments to:
Department of Ecology
Kara J. Steward
PO Box 47600
Olympia, WA 98504-7600

4.      Testify or submit written comments at the public hearing:
Aug. 7, 2012
Time: 1:00 p.m.
Department of Ecology
Northwest Regional Office
3190 - 160th Ave. SE
Bellevue, WA 98008-5452

Meanwhile, Ecology has begun implementing the mercury-containing lights recycling law. Under a competitive contracting process, Ecology awarded the program set up work in May 2012 to a team of non-profit organizations - Canadian-owned Product Care Association (PCA) and U.S.-based National Electronics Manufacturing Association (NEMA). The PCA-NEMA contractor will coordinate the mercury lighting collection and transportation system in preparation of the January 2013 kick-off.

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