Government Initiative on Disposing Mercury Lamps Takes Shape
September 1, 2010 2:46pm
- VS, GMANews.TV
The departments of Energy and Environment and Natural Resources on Wednesday said that talks are underway on how to tackle an "Extended Producer Responsibility" (EPR) program for mercury lamps, including a policy study on establishing a plan of action for it.
EPR, or "producer take back", is a system in which producers take physical and financial responsibility for the social and environmental impact of a product.
"True, we have switched from inefficient incandescent bulbs to efficient lighting systems such as compact fluorescent lamps. But it comes with a price - mercury is an integral component of CFLs. And mercury, if not properly disposed of, poses health hazards to humankind and the environment," Energy Undersecretary Loreta Ayson said.
To establish an EPR in the Philippines, the Energy Department has commissioned Innogy Solutions, Inc. and International Institute for Energy Conservation to do feasibility and policy studies on a program for mercury-based lamps.
Previous studies showed that mercury lamps must be disposed of in a hazardous-waste landfill or government-approved recovery facility. The disposal of mercury lamps and light bulbs in open dumps is prohibited, the department said.
Small quantity waste generators may dispose lamp wastes in a municipal landfill for hazardous waste registered with the Environmental Management Bureau and the National Solid Waste Management Commission.
The Philippines needs a pilot program on EPR with a central agent buying new bulbs from suppliers, collecting spent bulbs, and handling waste disposal and treatment services for mercury lamps.
A strong EPR policy
The EcoWaste Coalition and the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives said that a strong EPR policy initiative will curb the practice of throwing busted CFLs in waste bins and regular dumps, a practice that negatively affects people and the environment.
“Specifically, this will mean that producers of fluorescent lamps will be in charge of the collection, processing, and reclamation of their products when [these] are disposed or no longer useful," Thony Dizon, representing EcoWaste Coalition’s Project PROTECT, said.
Data from last year's energy audit seminar, Philippine Efficient Lighting Market Transformation Project, showed that 88 percent of households and 77 percent of commercial establishments treat their mercury-based and other lamps as domestic waste.
EcoWaste Coalition has raised the problem with former Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes and former Environment Secretary Joselito Atienza, saying the disposal of busted lamps exposes informal recyclers in dumpsites and junk shops and their immediate communities to mercury – a highly toxic substance.
“We envisioned a robust EPR that will impose lower levels of mercury in CFLs imported into the country, uphold consumer rights to full product and safety information, internalize the environmental costs, and operate an envglironmentally sound system for managing spent lamps, including a collection scheme that is easy for the public to access," co-coordinator of Global Alliance Manny Calonzo said.
Environment advocates also urged the Energy Department to ensure meaningful stakeholders’ participation in establishing a “mercury waste management facility," stressing the importance of public consultations in the process.
Republic Acts 6969 and 9003 defined lamp waste as hazardous, requiring proper disposal and waste management in the right treatment facilities.