On Friday, July 1st, Vermont’s new electronic waste (e-waste) recycling program will begin, providing free and convenient recycling of e-waste to Vermont residents, charities, schools, and small businesses. The recycling program, known as “Vermont E-Cycles”, was created by a VPIRG-backed law passed by legislators last year requiring manufacturers of electronics to finance the cost of collecting and recycling their discarded products. This type of “producer responsibility” program not only eases the financial burden carried by municipalities, but it also provides a powerful incentive for manufacturers to design their electronics to last longer and to exclude the toxic materials that make recycling so difficult and expensive.
Toxics & Environmental Health
The 2011 legislative session was filled with victories on VPIRG-backed legislation across each of our program areas. With a new governor in office for the first time in eight years, our small state suddenly had opportunities to pass the kind of major policy initiatives that our friends in other parts of the country could only …
On May 19th, Gov. Shumlin signed the Mercury Lamps Bill, which will establish a recycling program for light bulbs that contain small amounts of mercury. We all know the benefits of fluorescent bulbs. They save energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. However, they also contain mercury which makes the need for effective light bulb recycling programs crucial.
One of my favorite things about directing VPIRG is that by working with members like you and our partners across the state, we manage to get things done that my colleagues in other states can only dream about. Consider our list of accomplishments in the legislative session that just ended on Friday.
On Thursday, the Senate gave final approval to a bill that requires manufacturers of mercury-containing lamps to establish and finance a free and convenient recycling program for their spent bulbs from residents and small businesses. Pending the Governor’s approval, Vermont will become the third state in the country to establish such a program.
A guide to the Mercury Lamps Bill (S.34). S.34 would require manufacturers of mercury-containing lamps to establish a free and convenient recycling program for fluorescent bulbs. By financing the cost of recycling their products, manufacturers will have a powerful incentive to design their lamps to last longer and to exclude the toxic materials, including mercury, that make recycling so difficult and expensive.
Conventional cleaning products used in schools can contain a wide variety of harmful chemicals that have been linked to asthma, cancer, and other negative health effects. The potential for these chemicals to pollute indoor air and impair the health and comfort of students and staff cannot be dismissed.
The benefits of fluorescent bulbs in terms of energy efficiency are tremendous, and VPIRG supports their continued use. However, fluorescent bulbs also contain mercury, a known neurotoxin that can build up in our bodies and the environment. As the demand for energy efficient lighting increases, it’s imperative that Vermont have an effective recycling infrastructure in place.
Last spring, VPIRG successfully advocated for an e-waste law that requires manufacturers to pay for an electronics recycling program in Vermont, including free and convenient collection programs in every county across the state. The Agency of Natural Resources (ANR) has drafted their plan and took public comment — including many from our VPIRG members — in December.