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Study: Uptake and disposal of compact fluorescent lights by Canadian households, 2011

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Released: 2014-03-19

Almost 9 out of 10 households (87%) in Canadian census metropolitan areas (CMAs) had at least one type of energy-saving light in 2011. Three-quarters of total households reported using one or more compact fluorescent lights (CFLs), 39% reported at least one fluorescent tube, 35% reported at least one halogen light and 10% reported a light-emitting diode (LED) light. These lights use less energy to produce the same amount of light compared with a conventional incandescent light.

Households in the CMAs of Kingston and Thunder Bay were most likely (85%) to have at least one CFL, while Moncton (61%) residents were least likely.

Overall, almost all CMAs in Quebec, where electricity costs tended to be the lowest in Canada, had uptake rates below the national CFL average. The lone exception was the Quebec part of the Ottawa–Gatineau CMA (80%).

Households generally used only one method to dispose of their dead or unwanted CFLs, which contain mercury. About one-third (32%) used a "controlled" method of disposal: just under one-quarter of households (24%) reported using a depot or drop-off centre, and 8% reported returning the bulb(s) to the supplier or retailer.

Half of the households disposing of a CFL used an "uncontrolled" method (that is, throwing them in the garbage) and 12% still had them at the time of interview. The remainder used an unknown method of disposal.

In terms of disposal, households in Guelph were the most likely to have reported having dead or unwanted CFLs (41%) still on hand, followed by those in Sherbrooke (29%) and Québec (28%).

Households in Halifax were most likely to have disposed of their dead or unwanted CFLs in the garbage, with 84% that had dead or unwanted CFLs doing so. That was up from 61% in 2009. Households in Hamilton (27%) were the least likely to have reported this disposal method.

Disposal via a depot or drop-off centre was most commonly reported by households in Guelph (56%), while households in the CMA of Québec (13%) were the least likely to have made use of one.

Retailer take-back programs were the least cited option, with only three CMAs having releasable numbers: Toronto (12%), Vancouver (11%) and Montréal (9%).

Although, nationally, uptake of CFLs was relatively unchanged between 2009 and 2011, several CMAs reported significant changes in the way residents disposed of expired bulbs during the same period. London, for example, saw little change in its uptake rate, which remained just above 80%, but the proportion of households that disposed of their dead or unwanted CFLs in the garbage fell from 60% in 2009 to 33% in 2011.

A number of CMAs saw similar, if somewhat smaller decreases.

  Note to readers

This study is based on data from the 2009 and 2011 Households and the Environment Survey, which were conducted as part of the Canadian Environmental Sustainability Indicators initiative.

Data on the use of energy-saving lights are available in CANSIM table 153-0059 for 2007, 2009 and 2011.

The article "Uptake and disposal of compact fluorescent lights by Canadian households" is now available in EnviroStats, Vol. 8, no. 1 (Catalogue number16-002-X), from the Browse by key resource module of our website under Publications.

Contact information

For more information, contact us (toll-free 1-800-263-1136; 514-283-8300;

To enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact Gordon Dewis (613-951-4591;, Environment Accounts and Statistics Division.

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