Break Not, Dump Not, Burn Not: EcoWaste Coalition Pushes for Safe Management of Mercury-Containing Lamp Waste

As the international community gathers in Sweden for the first session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee to prepare a legally-binding treaty on mercury, a waste and toxic watchdog renewed its drive against the improper disposal of spent mercury-containing lamps.

The EcoWaste Coalition, in a statement issued from Stockholm, reiterated the urgency of putting in place a practical system for hazardous waste collection in the Philippines that will curb pollution from broken, crushed or burned fluorescent lamps containing mercury, a toxic chemical of global concern that causes significant harm to human and ecological health.

The EcoWaste Coalition, along with Ban Toxics, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives and Health Care Without Harm from the civil society and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources fromthe government sector, are participating in the ongoing UN-organized meeting on mercury in Sweden (June 7-11).

“Mercury vapor is released into the environment from the breakage of fluorescent lamps during their use or when they are disposed. When spent lamps are thrown into the trash can, they usually end up in dumpsites or landfills where they are crushed, burned, or recycled without safety precautions and thereby causing the air, water and soil to be contaminated with mercury,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project PROTECT (People Responding and Organizing against Toxic Chemical Threats).

“To reduce the risk of mercury exposure for consumers as well as for waste handlers and recyclers and their communities, we urge thegovernment to draw up and enforce a system towards the environmentally-sound management of discarded mercury-containing lamps, including arrangements for the safe containment and storage of collected mercury wastes,” commented Manny Calonzo, Co-Coordinator, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives.

“The system, we hope, will also spell out the specific responsibilities of household and institutional users, local and national government agencies, and business and industry towards the environmentally-sound management of mercury-containing lamp waste,” he added.

The United Nations Environment Programme defines environmentally-sound management “as taking all practicable steps to ensure that hazardous waste or other wastes are managed in a manner which will protect human health and the environment against adverse effects which may result from such wastes.”

To contribute to raising community awareness on the proper management of spent fluorescent lamps, the EcoWaste Coalition simultaneously released in Manila and Stockholm its blue and yellow posters entitled“Dump Not, Burn Not Mercury Lamp Waste.”

“The posters represent our commitment to spreading information about mercury in products and promoting the ecological management of mercury-containing wastes,” Dizon said.

To protect human health and the ecosystems from mercury pollution, the EcoWaste Coalition encourages the public to abide by the following steps for safely managing spent compact, linear and circular fluorescent lamps:

1. Do not break. Handle spent mercury-containing lamps with extreme care as they can easily break.

2. Do not burn lamps containing mercury or throw them into regular waste bins.

3. Do not play with discarded lamps or leave them lying around.
4. Return spent lamp to its original box container or place in a clear plastic bag, seal and mark “Toxic: Lamp Waste with Mercury.”

5. Put the properly wrapped and labeled lamp waste into a secured place for temporary storage.

6. For increased protection against breakage, store spent lamps in an upright position and place in a covered tin or plastic container for smaller lamps or in a cupboard for linear lamps.

7. Mark the container where the lamp waste is stored with a readable warning: “Toxic: Lamp Waste with Mercury.”

8. Keep the storage area safe, out of children’s reach and away from the elements and human traffic.

9. Contact fluorescent lamp manufacturers and/or distributors to check if they have a take-back program for their spent products or suggest a take back program if they have none.

EcoWaste Coalition
Unit 329, Eagle Court Condominium
Matalino St., Quezon City, Philippines
+63 2 441-1846

1 Comment

  • A recent study conducted by the University of Minnesota tested the effectiveness of various packages in containing mercury vapor emitted from broken fluorescent lamps. Results indicate that single-layer cardboard boxes (representing the original box or container) as well as single layer boxes with a sealed plastic bag do not provide sufficient containment of mercury vapor. To protect people and the environment from hazardous mercury vapor, more stringent packaging standards should be put into place. Learn more about the only package that effectively contained mercury vapor here: http://vaporlok.blogspot.com.