A state law passed in Washington back in 2010 is finally going into effect as of January 1, 2013. This measure is outlawing the disposal of mercury-containing light bulbs (the element is found in fluorescent bulbs used in homes and businesses) through standard methods. They can no longer be tossed with the regular garbage. It also prohibited the bulk sale of mercury by June 30 of this year. These lights must now be recycled by a producer-financed program that will be fully enforceable come the first of the year. This means that the ones making the bulbs are also responsible for their safe disposal and recycle. They must collect, transport, and handle the recycling of the lights.

The Department of Ecology for the State of Washington posted on their website what these bulbs included: “Fluorescents, including linear straight tubes, U-shaped, circular and compact fluorescents (the spiral type commonly used in homes), neon bulbs, ultraviolet bulbs (often used to disinfect drinking water), High-intensity discharge bulbs (HID). These bulbs are commonly used for outdoor lighting and many commercial building settings. HID bulbs include: Mercury vapor, Metal Halide, and High Pressure Sodium.” Just another sign that waste removal is getting more responsible, and a welcome sign at that.

Come January first it will be illegal in Seattle (and the rest of Washington State) for residents to discard any burnt-out bulbs containing mercury into their trash bins or waste dumpsters. As quoted by the Seattle Times, “State regulators say broken fluorescent lights expose workers, residents and children to toxic mercury vapors. Mercury poses a threat to public health.” Since it is the producers of these bulbs that will be eating the cost for every part of these recycling services, the public will be made to pay nothing to have these materials disposed of and reused again. It’s a fair deal that the ones creating these potential toxins are the ones that are footing the bill for their proper disposal and cleanup.

In the ever expanding market of refuse removal, it’s good to see states producing bills that are proactively searching for proper methods of waste disposal. As our light bulb creation processes become more energy efficient with time, we can rely less on illuminating power sources that emit mercury from them. This will help protect not only us as a population from being harmed but also create a much less detrimental effect on the environment over time as well.