EcoWaste Coalition Pushes Environmentally-Sound Recycling of Waste Lamps as Nation Observes Consumer Welfare Month

The EcoWaste Coalition, a public interest network promoting zero waste and chemical safety, appealed to all consumers of energy-efficient but mercury-containing fluorescent lamps to properly
manage waste lamps to reduce risk to public health and the environment.

The group called for the environmentally-sound recycling of waste lamps as the country marks the Consumer Welfare Month held every October pursuant to Presidential Proclamation No. 1098. The Department of Energy (DOE) chairs this year’s celebration focusing on the theme “Sapat na Impormasyon: Susi sa Wastong Paggamit ng Enerhiya.”

“Improper disposal of waste lamps will cause the glass tubing to break and release mercury vapor, exposing waste workers and the general public to mercury, a potent neurotoxin, which can endanger public health and the environment,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

As per the United Nations Environment Programme, "when products containing mercury are discarded into the general waste stream, the mercury pollutes the environment - in waterways, wetlands, and the air - and endangers people both locally and globally."

In March this year, the group released a report entitled “The Toxic Silence of the Lamps” showing how waste lamps are indiscriminately disposed of in Metro Manila’s 17 local government units where busted or spent lamps are by and large discarded as ordinary trash, often dumped on the sidewalk, vacant lots and waterways.

As it pushed for the safe disposal of waste lamps, the EcoWaste Coalition called upon concerned stakeholders to support DOE’s goal to get the envisaged Lamp Waste Management Facility (LWMF) up and running by December 2014.

The LWMF, which the DOE intends to turn over to the lighting industry or to a local government unit, will receive waste lamps “to recover mercury and other by-products (to) avert residual mercury from entering the food chain through landfill leaching into ground water.”

“The effective operation of the LWMF will be in step with the country’s commitment to implement the Minamata Convention on Mercury, which recognizes the need for action to minimize and eliminate mercury emissions and releases to safeguard human health and the environment,” Dizon said.

The treaty which Environment Secretary Ramon J.P. Paje signed in October 2013 in Kumamoto, Japan on behalf of the government requires parties to take measures to ensure the environmentally-sound management of mercury waste.

As the DOE scouts for an eligible operator of the LWMF from the private or public sector, the EcoWaste Coalition requested the government, the industry and the civil society to undertake systematic measures to ensure the safe collection, storage and recycling of waste lamps.

Such measures should include extensive massive public information, waste workers' education, establishment of drop-off points for waste lamps, provision of incentives to encourage proper disposal, and safe and secure storage of collected waste lamps for non-polluting recycling, Dizon said.