|Friday, 30 July 2010 17:03|
Mercury is a necessary element that is added to lamps to form a vapour which produces light when current is passed through it under a vacuum. Lamps such as: compact fluorescent (CFL), long fluorescent (LFL), high-intensity discharge (HID), high-pressure sodium (HPS), metal halide(MH), neon, mercury vapour, use mercury. 5-50 mg mercury is used as mercury vapour, which, when energized, emits ultraviolet energy. This generates visible light when it reacts with the phosphor coating on the inside of the lamp.
Mercury-containing lamps are already widely used, yet sometimes people do not realise that they contain mercury. In the coming years millions of these lamps are expected to flood the world consumer markets and be used in homes, businesses and institutions, since bans are planned on the incandescent lamp in many countries, because it uses more energy.
Mercury can be released during the manufacturing process, especially if hand-dosing of liquid Hg is used. It can also be released when lamps are transported from the factory to the retailer, to the consumer and eventually to disposal. When mercury-containing lamps are installed, stored or disposed, they can break and mercury can be released. During disposal of lamps in dumpsters, rubbish bins, incinerators and landfills, mercury can be released and enter into the atmosphere. Even if lamps get recycled, mercury can evaporate during crushing, mercury recovery, as well as metal smelting. All of these instances need to be addressed and solutions found so that mercury does not get released but instead is removed and recycled carefully.
The “mercury paradox”:
As a result, reductions of mercury releases through the use of CFLs may not be overwhelming, depending on the region and country; the great benefit of using CFLs is energy efficiency. Therefore, to reduce overall mercury use and release, it is imperative to reduce the mercury content in CFLs to an absolute minimum, as well as to maximise the lifetime and lumens per watt of all mercury lamps. It is also crucial to ensure that mercury-containing lamps at the end of their lives are collected separately in order to maximise the recycling of all mercury lamps.
In the EU
The EU has developed and passed two pieces of legislation regulating the content and disposition of electrical and electronic equipment (EEE). Directive 2002/96/EC (WEEE) mainly ensures separate collection and recycling of EEE, while Directive 2002/95/EC (RoHS) bans the use of certain hazardous chemicals – including mercury or any components containing mercury – in new equipment marketed after 1 July 2006. The RoHS directive presently includes such EEE as large household appliances, small household appliances, information and communications technology equipment, consumer devices, lighting equipment, electrical and electronic tools,
At present, however, due to the lack of widely available energy-efficient alternatives, the EU has specifically permitted continued use of fluorescent lamps with a generally low mercury content, as well as all specialty mercury lamps (more details on this are contained in the RoHS Directive).
The content of mercury in energy efficient lighting has recently been revised under the relevant annex of the RoHS directive. EU NGOs have followed the review of this annex and developments and work can be found here. EEB/ZMWG organised a conference on the issue in 2008 - 'Mercury containing lamps under the spotlight'.
Mercury in lamps is also relevant to the EU Ecolabel. According to European Commission Decision 1999/568/EC (amended 9 September 2002), for a manufacturer to be allowed to use the European Ecolabel on a single-ended compact fluorescent lamp, the mercury content must not exceed 4 mg, and the life of the lamp must exceed 10,000 hours. This decision is under revision and mercury content maximum allowed level will be further lowered.
A new initiative called en.lighten has been initiated at UNEP level: The UNEP en.lighten initiative has been established to promote, accelerate and coordinate global efforts to push for efficient lighting. It seeks to accelerate the global commercialization and market transformation of efficient lighting technologies by working at global level and provide support to countries. In doing so it aims at strengthening capacities among governments, private sector and civil society to lead successful lighting market transformation programs. en.lighten is a UNEP initiative supported by the GEF Earth Fund, Philips Lighting and OSRAM GmbH.
ZMWG is co-chair and member of the Consumer, environmental protection and recycling taskforce, represented by MPP and EEB. They have been attending the first meeting of the task force on 20 September 2010, Geneva. Draft documents which were agreed to be developed are now being circulated. A second meeting of the Task Force on Consumer, environmental protection and recycling took place on 14-15 March 2011 in the Netherlands, and on 6 July 2011 in Paris.
In the US several reports have been published and state legislation is implemented:
Information is provided at http://www.epa.gov/hg/consumer.htm#bat , at http://www.epa.gov/hg/regs.htm and at http://www.newmoa.org/prevention/mercury/modelleg.cfm
Prepared by Edward Groth, PhD, For The Mercury Policy Project, February 2008.
The report recommends that sensitive populations should take extra precautions to reduce risks associated with CFL breakage, but says that CFLs generally can and should still be used in everyone’s homes until a nontoxic light bulb becomes available. The report also recommends the adoption of more comprehensive environmental and human health guidelines by decision makers that, in addition to energy-efficiency, address other concerns.
The US EPA has posted detailed guidelines for cleaning up breakage of CFLs and fluorescent linear tubes on their website, see:
2008 State of Maine Report: http://www.maine.gov/dep/rwm/homeowner/cflreport.htm
See also laws for mercury-containing lamps, thermostats and other product discards in the USA: http://www.productstewardship.us/displaycommon.cfm?an=1&subarticlenbr=280
Proposed state legislation for mercury-containing lamps, thermostats and other product discards in the USA: http://productstewardship.us/displaycommon.cfm?an=1&subarticlenbr=790
Green Lighting Campaign
Environmental groups are taking a pledge to consider only the “greenest” CFLs when making purchases for office use and during compact fluorescent lamp giveaways. The new “Green Lighting Campaign” intends to promote more sustainable lighting practices such as recycling, rather than throwing lamps containing mercury in the trash. Toxic levels in lamps have created concerns when the lamps are produced, transported, installed, broken or disposed of, say advocates. Absent mercury content reductions and manufacturing dosing improvements, global mercury use will increase with expanding fluorescent lighting use, and negate dramatic mercury reductions anticipated in most other sectors. Offered by a coalition of groups (see press release , the guidance and pledge have other organizations considering steps to include more than energy efficiency when determining their lighting purchases.
Creating a better world includes finding solutions that work to address multiple issues. Using fluorescent lighting reduces greenhouse gas emissions, mercury and other pollutants coming from fossil-fuel fired power plants. To work, these lamps need mercury. Currently, the end-of-life for most household fluorescent lamps is through landfilling or incineration.
Links provided highlight the National Green Lighting campaign’s efforts to extend responsibility for all mercury-containing lighting by providing convenient, comprehensive and sustainable end-of-life solutions; as well as reducing toxicity, improving lighting quality and increasing efficiency/longevity of all lamps sold.
The Green Lighting Campaign submited comments on US Dept. of Energy proposal: