18 December 2013

Public Cautioned against Improper Disposal of Mercury-Containing Lamp Waste

As Filipinos spruce up their homes in preparation for Christmas and the New Year, a waste and pollution watchdog reminded the public against improper disposal of waste fluorescent lamps, which can damage human health and the environment.

The EcoWaste Coalition warned that the inappropriate handling and disposal will cause spent fluorescent lamps to break, releasing mercury in the form of vapor out of the glass tubing and into the air, water and soil, posing serious risk to waste workers,  community members and the environment.

The group issued the reminder on the heels of a newly-promulgated government policy
assigning the lighting industry to establish a systematic collection, transportation and disposal of lamp waste nationwide.

The EcoWaste Coalition in 2010 had sought the help of former Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes and Environment Secretary Joselito Atienza to curb the improper disposal of spent lamps that exposes waste handlers and recyclers in dumpsites and junk shops as well as their families and communities to mercury, an extremely toxic substance.

Through Joint Administrative Order (JAO) No. 2013-09-200 issued by the Department of Energy and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, which took effect last October 13, 2013, a system for  Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) is to be set up to address the end-of-life disposal of lighting products.

“The EPR system for lighting products, we hope, will lead to a progressive reduction of mercury use in energy efficient lamps, require mandatory mercury warning labels, internalize the environmental costs, and provide for an accessible environmentally-sound mechanism for retrieving and managing spent lamps,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

“While waiting for the EPR system to get duly agreed and implemented, we deem it essential for lamp waste generators to manage and store their discards in a safe manner to prevent the occurrence of mercury spills,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

“We cannot just sit back and allow the usual practice of throwing spent fluorescent lamps alongside regular trash to continue,” he said.

According to the Department of Energy, some 50 million units of mercury-containing lamp wastes are generated in the country per year, with only 1% sent to treatment facilities, 8%  stored, 7% sold to junk shops and 84% disposed of as garbage.

Photo documentation by the EcoWaste Coalition of prevailing lamp waste management in Metro Manila showed that spent lamps are mixed with ordinary household garbage, thrown in garbage heaps or simply left abandoned in sidewalks.  To see some of the photos, please log on to: http://ecowastecoalition.blogspot.com



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