AUGUSTA, Maine — Gov. John Baldacci held a ceremonial signing Monday for bills that would establish an industry-funded recycling program for compact fluorescent light bulbs and create a registry for those who want notification about aerial pesticide applications.
“Together, these initiatives continue to ensure the health and safety of our people and our vibrant natural resources,” Baldacci said during the signing ceremony attended by representatives of numerous health and environmental organizations.
Maine has offered a pilot recycling program for several years for compact fluorescent lamps or light bulbs, also known as CFLs. The latest bill is modeled after the state’s successful electronics waste recycling program, which requires manufacturers to help pay for the safe disposal of computers, televisions and other products containing dangerous metals or chemicals.
Supporters said the new law is the first of its kind in the nation.
CFLs use significantly less energy than standard incandescent bulbs and last much longer, resulting in sizable cost savings for consumers while benefiting the environment.
But the bulbs contain small amounts of mercury — a potential neurotoxin — which can be released into the environment when CFLs end up in a landfill or waste incinerator. As incandescent bulbs are phased out, the number of mercury-containing CFLs being used around the country will skyrocket.
LD 973 requires CFL manufacturers to collectively or individually implement a free collection program for used bulbs by January 2011. Bulbs likely will be collected at retail stores and municipal transfer stations but are not limited to those locations.
Manufacturers that fail to implement or participate in a collection program will be prohibited from selling their CFLs in Maine. The bill also directs the Maine Department of Environmental Protection to adopt mercury content standards for CFLs.
Matt Prindiville with the Natural Resources Council of Maine said LD 973 is the latest in a series of measures to keep mercury-containing products out of Maine’s trash stream. Previous laws have addressed thermostat switches, button cell batteries and other products that contain mercury, which can cause neurological and developmental damage.
The other bill, LD 1293, creates a statewide registry for those who want to be notified before local farmers apply pesticides using either aircraft or fanlike machines known as air carriers. The bill also requires farmers to make contact with all landowners within roughly 1,300 feet at least once every three years to inform them of their right to be on the registry and to provide information about the pesticides they plan to use.
The bill grew out of continuing concerns — especially among some living in Maine’s blueberry-growing regions Down East — that existing rules were not adequately protecting the health of neighbors subject to drifting pesticides.
Russell Libby, executive director of the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, said while the bill was less than what his organization had wanted, he was pleased the state was moving forward. Agricultural groups were successful in fighting a proposal that would have required annual notification of neighbors and dramatically tightened Maine’s laws for pesticide drift.
Libby said he hopes the bill will help encourage better communication between farmers and their neighbors.
“That really is at the heart of it,” Libby said. “If people talk there are fewer problems.”
Both bills, which were sponsored by Rep. Seth Berry, D-Bowdoinham, will take effect Sept. 12.