24 September 2012

EcoWaste Coalition Reiterates Need for Proper Management of Mercury-Containing Lamp Waste

An environmental network promoting zero waste and chemical safety has cautioned the public against the improper disposal of energy efficient but mercury-containing compact
fluorescent lamps (CFLs).

The EcoWaste Coalition made the plea as some 3.6 million CFLs are set to be distributed through congressional and party list representatives from September 22 to 28, 2012 under the National Residential Lighting Program of the Philippine Energy Efficiency Project by the Department
of Energy (DOE).

According to the DOE, the distribution of CFLs will translate to 44,702 tons of carbon dioxide emission reduction, which is equivalent to 83 MWh energy savings or P828 million monetary savings.

Under the program, 10,000 CFLs will be distributed free of charge to 5,000 households per congressional district or party list household beneficiaries. Two 14-watt CFLs will be given per household.

Each 14-watt CFL contains 1.5 mg of mercury, a toxic substance that is often released due to product breakage or through recycling in uncontrolled conditions.

“While recognizing the climate benefits of CFLs, we urge users to strictly follow safety precautions, from lamp installation to disposal, to avoid breakage and exposure to mercury,” said Thony
Dizon, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

“Products and wastes containing mercury such as busted fluorescent lamps should be carefully handled and not mixed with regular household discards nor dumped or burned,” Dizon emphasized.

Aside from busted lamps, other sources of mercury in municipal solid waste include discarded thermometers, dental amalgams, laboratory chemicals, measuring devices, skin whitening cosmetics and electronics or e-waste.

Dizon stated that R.A. 6969, the Toxic Substances and Hazardous and Nuclear Wastes Act, considers lamp waste as hazardous and thus requiring safe management and disposal, while R.A. 9003, the
Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, classifies lamp waste as special waste that should not be combined with compostable and recyclable waste.

A study prepared by the EcoWaste Coalition and included in a report published by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) on heavy metals in products has noted some challenges in the country’s shift from incandescent bulbs to CFLs.

These challenges include the lack of producer responsibility or take back system for discarded lamps, the lack of mercury information and precaution on product labels, the lack of public education on mercury exposure and emergency response measures, the lack of a functional system for collecting busted lamps, including storage, and the informal recycling of busted lamps in dumpsites and junk shops that releases mercury vapor into the surroundings.

According to the government-published “Mercury-Containing Lamp Waste Management” guidebook, “mercury and its compounds are highly toxic especially to the developing nervous system, which is very sensitive to all forms of mercury. Exposure to high levels of mercury can cause
permanent brain damage, central nervous system disorders, memory loss, heart disease, kidney failure, liver damage, vision loss, sensation loss, and tremors.”

The guidebook stated that “mercury is also a suspected endocrine disruptor, which means it damages the reproductive and hormonal development and growth of fetuses and infants. Even low-level
exposure to mercury has caused serious health effects that include neurological damage, reproductive system damage, behavioral problems, and learning disabilities.”

To minimize exposure to mercury-containing lamps and wastes, the EcoWaste Coalition appealed to users to heed the following precautionary steps:

1. Do not break. Handle spent mercury-containing lamps with extreme care as they can easily break.

2. Do not burn lamps containing mercury or throw them into regular waste bins.

3. Do not play with discarded lamps or leave them lying around.

4. Return spent lamp to its original box container or place in a clear plastic bag, seal and mark “Toxic: Lamp Waste with Mercury.”

5. Put the properly wrapped and labeled lamp waste into a secured place for temporary storage.

6. For increased protection against breakage, store spent lamps in an upright position and place in a covered tin or plastic container for smaller lamps or in a cupboard for linear lamps.

7. Mark the container where the lamp waste is stored with a readable warning: “Toxic: Lamp Waste with Mercury.”

8. Keep the storage area safe, out of children’s reach and away from the elements and human traffic.

9. Contact fluorescent lamp manufacturers and/or distributors to check if they have a take-back program for their spent products or suggest a take back program if they have none.

“As we wait for a system that will ensure the environmentally-sound management of busted lamps, we call on the public to observe these steps to prevent mercury pollution,” Dizon said.

As defined by UNEP, “environmentally-sound management” means “taking all practicable steps to ensure that hazardous waste or other wastes are managed in a manner which will protect human health and the environment against adverse effects which may result from such wastes.”

-end-

Reference:

http://www.scribd.com/doc/60608387/UNEP-CFLs-Mercury-Case-Study-in-Philippines-2011
www.doe.gov.ph/.../PEEP%20CFL%20Distribution%20for%20HOR%20Guidelines.pdf
www.doe.gov.ph/pelmatp/LWM%20Guidebook_final.pdf

1 comment:

Brad Buscher said...

Safely recycling used fluorescent lamps and compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) is important for the environment, but also for the health of consumers and handlers who come into contact with them. Exposure to mercury vapors can lead to significant risks including neurological damage. Despite the potential health issues, fluorescent lamps and CFLs are growing steadily in the industrial, commercial and residential markets. They are four to six times more efficient than incandescent bulbs, offer energy cost savings and deliver a longer working life. In order to safely dispose of and recycle used fluorescent lamps and CFLs, they must be properly packaged in an effective mercury-safe storage or shipping container that includes an adsorbent technology.

A study by Nucon International, Inc., a world-wide leader in providing gas, vapor and liquid phase adsorption solutions for mercury and other contaminants to the nuclear and other industries, found that within mercury-specific packaging with broken lamps inside, vapor levels can reach over 150 to 300 times OSHA’s 8-hour permissible exposure limit. A new, patent-pending adsorbent technology, recently announced at the Air & Waste Management Association’s Conference & Exhibition, can significantly reduce the mercury vapor levels in these storage and recycling packages. Levels were reduced by nearly 60 percent in only 15 minutes and over 95 percent after 12 hours, according to the study. The adsorbent pad is impregnated with powdered, activated carbon and reacted with proprietary inert chemicals, allowing it to effectively capture and reduce the mercury vapor from shattered lamps to a safe level within the shipping and storage package. In addition, the adsorbent can accommodate the high volume of mercury vapor that is released when several or all bulbs in a full package are broken. This provides an added layer of protection against incidental mercury exposure, offering consumers and other handlers a safer way to recycle their used fluorescent lamps and CFLs. A small consumer-size recycling bag, now available, also features this technology and allows people to safely store three to four used CFLs at home before taking them to a retailer or municipality that accepts CFLs for recycling. This bag can also be used to help clean up broken CFLs following EPA instructions printed on the bag.
View a short animated depiction of the adsorption process at http://www.vaporlokproducts.com/capturedemo.

Download a detailed White Paper on this technology at http://www.vaporlokproducts.com/capturewhitepaper.pdf.

Purchase consumer CFL recycling bags at http://vaporlokproducts.myshopify.com/products/consumer-cfl-recycling-bag.