Senator Carson, Representative Tucker, and members of the Joint Standing Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, my name is Sarah Lakeman and I am the Sustainable Maine Project Director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM). I appreciate this opportunity to support LD 1668, which would greatly enhance the performance of Maine’s existing mercury-added lamps program.
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 citizens manage this particular mercury threat, Maine passed an Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) law to require manufacturers of mercury-containing light bulbs to operate and fund a collection and recycling system for used bulbs. Maine’s program is implemented by the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) on behalf of the manufacturers.
However, NEMA’s program has consistently underperformed and has failed to collect the vast majority of used bulbs. On average, about 10% are recycled through the program. The other 90% are either collected or funded through local government or end up where they don’t belong, in our landfills and incinerators.
This failure is due to flaws in the current statutory language in §1672. Specifically, it doesn’t require NEMA to meet convenience or education and outreach standards that cover the entire state; it limits mercury-added lamps that can be recycled through the program to households only; and doesn’t provide the Department with a mechanism to require changes to the program that would make it more successful.
Without changes to the statute, as proposed in LD 1668, NEMA will continue to do the bare-minimum as required by law since the manufacturers pay per bulb recycled; in other words they have an economic incentive to have an unsuccessful program.
NRCM agrees with the Department’s assessment of the program and proposed fixes in LD 1668. Thank you for your consideration. I’d be happy to answer any questions.