Testimony in Support of LD 1814, An Act To Reduce Mercury in the Environment by Phasing out Certain Fluorescent Light Bulbs
Senator Brenner, Representative Gramlich, and members of the Joint Standing Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, my name is Sarah Nichols, and I am the Sustainable Maine Director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM). I appreciate this opportunity to support LD 1814, as proposed to be amended by the bill sponsor.
Mercury-containing lamps, such as long fluorescent light tubes and compact-fluorescents (CFLs), pose a significant public health risk when they are not kept intact and recycled properly. It is illegal to dispose of them in landfills and incinerators in Maine, where mercury can be released into the environment and make its way into our water, contaminating the fish we eat. Even in very small quantities, mercury can cause severe health problems such as cardiovascular disease and neurological damage.
To help our local government and taxpayers manage this particular mercury threat, Maine passed an Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) law in 2011 to require manufacturers of mercury-containing light bulbs to operate and fund a collection and recycling system for used bulbs. Unfortunately, the program has consistently underperformed and has failed to collect most used bulbs. In 2021, about 16% of the bulbs were estimated to be recycled through the program, and about 6% were collected by and paid for Maine’s municipalities.¹ The vast majority likely end up where they don’t belong, in our landfills and incinerators.
Non-toxic LED (light-emitting diode) light bulbs are a readily available alternative for mercury-containing fluorescents. They last about twice as long, cut energy use in half, and are the more cost-effective option over their lifetime. If this bill was to pass, then Maine’s households and businesses would save more than $20 million annually on their utility bills by 2030, and by 2050 our state would avoid the release of 178,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which is the equivalent of 38,000 gasoline-powered passenger cars driven for one year.²
Vermont and California have passed legislation banning the sale of mercury-containing light bulbs by January 2024.³ And I understand that bills similar to LD 1814 are awaiting signatures by the governors of Hawaii, Oregon, and Colorado. The European Union banned the sale of most mercury-containing bulbs by September 2023. And Canada is on track to effectively phase out the manufacture of most fluorescent lamps by the end of 2023 and ban the sale of most fluorescent lamps by the end of 2026.
We urge the Committee to vote Ought to Pass on LD 1814 as proposed to be amended so that Mainers also experience the benefits of more energy-efficient, cost-effective, and less-toxic lighting here in Maine. And we are not alone, I’ve attached to my testimony an organizational sign-on letter of support for this important piece of environmental legislation. Thank
1 Data according to Maine DEP’s 2023 Annual Product Stewardship Report to the Legislature
2 Data according to Appliance Standards Awareness Project: https://appliance-standards.org/sites/default/files/Maine_1.pdf and https://appliance-standards.org/sites/default/files/Maine_1.pdf