Sunday, September 5, 2010

Govt initiative on disposing mercury lamps takes shape

The departments of Energy and Environment and Natural Resources on
Wednesday said that talks are underway on how to tackle an "extended
producer responsibility" 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

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 Energy 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
Alternative 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 environmentally 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


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