In 2018, Scout launched Mercury Roundup: a groundbreaking program that educates Ontarians on the dangers of mercury—a toxic heavy metal—and empowers them to bring mercury-containing products to their local waste facilities for safe disposal. In partnership with the Region of Peel, City of Peterborough, and City of Barrie, year one of the program encouraged residents to collect 785 products—removing over 22 kg of liquid mercury from our communities!
What Is Mercury, and Where Is It Found?
Mercury exists naturally in our environment. However, it is mostly locked away in deposits and deep ocean sediments that humans have disrupted and unearthed, both intentionally and unintentionally. The main sources of human-caused mercury emissions are small-scale gold mining, coal combustion, metal refining, cement production, and improperly disposed products.
Numerous consumer and industrial products—including thermometers, thermostats, blood pressure monitors, and various electronic switches (to name just a few)—were once manufactured with mercury due its unique properties as a liquid metal conductor. Though phased out of production, these products still lurk in people’s homes, garages, basements, and workplaces, and are often mistakenly thrown in the trash at the end of their useful life.
Why Is Mercury Bad News for Our Health?
If products containing mercury end up in local landfills, liquid mercury is released into our land and water. Once in the environment, it’s soon converted into a form called methylmercury, which is not only more easily ingested by wildlife, but can also wreak havoc on the neurological, hormonal, and reproductive health of all living things. These negative effects have been passed on to people who consume larger marine animals such as tuna, swordfish, shark, marlin, king mackerel, and escolar (often mislabeled butterfish or white tuna).
Though chronic mercury poisoning from food sources is not common in Canada, it has serious impacts on many species of wildlife that we hold dear. For example, the loon—one of Ontario’s provincial symbols and one of our most iconic species—has been experiencing reproductive decline for decades due to higher levels of methylmercury and acid rain, as well as fewer fish in their natural habitats.
Enter the Mercury Roundup Program
Today, Scout Environmental is working closely with Ontario municipalities to educate residents on what mercury is, where it’s found, and how it can be disposed of safely. As the infographic shows, the Region of Peel, City of Peterborough, and City of Barrie were (until just recently!) home to hundreds of potentially dangerous products—with nearly 700 thermostats and thermometers brought in for disposal! Have a look in your own home—is there liquid mercury in something in your basement, attic, or garage?
To ensure even more Ontarians are safely disposing of mercury-containing products, Scout has now partnered with two additional municipalities: Simcoe County and Essex-Windsor! These forward-thinking organizations are taking an active role in reducing the amount of toxic material in our lands, waters, and wildlife. And regardless of whether your municipality is a Mercury Roundup program partner, you can always bring any mercury-containing product from your home or business to your local household hazardous waste depot. Information on location and hours of operation will be found easily on your municipal, regional, or county website.
Let’s do our part to provide future generations with the opportunity to live in clean communities—places where no toxic materials accumulate in our landfills or ecosystems; places where species like the loon thrive and prosper. For more information on mercury-containing products and the Mercury Roundup program, visit MercuryRoundup.ca.
— Post by Program Manager Kasper Franciszkiewicz