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News > Advocacy > Mercury Bulb Ban

Mercury Bulb Ban

While Washington phases out the sale of these mercury bulbs over the next five years, we expect them to arrive at our solid waste facilities for many, many years after.
1 Mar 2024

Imagine – you’re home on a Friday night after a week full of parliamentary procedure, a glass of Columbia Valley Cabernet breathing on the table beside your leather easy chair. You’re flipping through your vinyl collection of Queen albums, trying to decide if you’re in the mood for Bohemian Rhapsody or Seaside Rendezvous, when suddenly, the single bulb lighting the room begins to flicker and dies. You fumble through the dark to your Arco Floor Lamp, knocking over your inky cab, only to discover that the deceased bulb is a mercury-containing, curly compact fluorescent light that needs to be brought to a take-back location so it can be recycled or properly disposed of. Knowing you now have to bring this bulb to a drop-off location to be recycled or properly disposed of, you’re no longer in the mood for fine wine or Mr. Fahrenheit, and you go to bed upset. (This is hypothetical and is in no way related to what has happened to me before)

Representative Hackney’s HB 1185 aims to prevent this situation by banning the sale of most mercury-containing bulbs beginning on January 1, 2029. If signed by the Governor, having passed through both the House and the Senate, it would also extend the state’s existing LightCycle take-back program through 2035, increase the number of drop-off locations, and expand the number of bulbs that can be dropped off. Lastly, it would restructure how LightCycle is funded by removing the current 95-cent handling fee and requiring producers to directly fund the program and reimburse the locations that support the program. If it does not pass, the LightCycle program is scheduled to expire in 2025, and these lights will no longer have an organization charged with managing them responsibly.

WSAC has been in support of the proposed legislation as it would extend an important program that benefits county solid waste programs. While drop-off locations can include hardware stores or other retailers, many counties accept, sort, and package mercury-containing lights through their hazardous waste programs and return them to LightCycle at their own cost. The restructuring of the program will allow counties to see reimbursement for their costs to support the program. Additionally, without a program or funding for a replacement, these bulbs will end up in landfills, where the mercury will slowly make its way into wastewater systems and waterways.

While Washington phases out the sale of these bulbs over the next five years, we expect to see them arriving at our solid waste facilities for many, many years after. It will be important to ensure the responsible disposal of these bulbs and the mercury contained within.

Here’s hoping for a future where we can relax under the glow of LED bulbs, and the only Mercury-containing item we need to worry about is which Queen album we want to listen to.

The answer is Jazz, by the way. Always Jazz.

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