DoE Urged to Put to Use US$1.37 Million Recycling Equipment for Mercury Lamp Waste

JANUARY 2016: Mercury-containing lamp waste abandoned on the sidewalk of Pablo Ocampo Sr. Avenue Extension, Barangay La Paz, Makati City.

A non-profit group advocating for the safe management of busted or spent fluorescent lamps containing toxic mercury today urged the Department of Energy to put to use a costly recycling equipment that is just gathering dust in Taguig City.

Through a letter sent to Secretary Alfonso Cusi, the EcoWaste Coalition pressed for the operationalization of the Lamp Waste Management Facility (LWMF) with mercury recovery that the DoE purchased in 2013 from MRT System International, a Swedish company, for US$1.37 million, inclusive of taxes and customs duties.   

The facility is a component of the DoE-led Philippine Energy Efficiency Project supported by a loan from the Asian Development Bank.

“We hope that your office is one with us in recognizing the urgent need for the government  to operationalize the LWMF and implement a practical system for the safe recycling of lamp waste to minimize mercury pollution due to the improper disposal of fluorescent lamps at the end of their useful life,” wrote Noli Abinales, President, EcoWaste Coalition.  

“Under your watch, we hope that the DoE will be successful in getting a qualified operator to run the LWMF at the soonest time possible,” he added.

“The prolonged non-operation of the facility can take its toll on the multi-million peso equipment, while spent lamps continue to be arbitrarily disposed of like ordinary trash, contaminating human bodies and the environment with toxic mercury,” he pointed out.

The DOE operated the facility, located at Bagumbayan, Taguig City, during the pilot phase.  

As described by the DOE, the LWMF is “a facility where all spent mercury-containing lamps shall undergo recycling to recover mercury and other by-products (to) avert residual mercury from entering the food chain through landfill leaching into ground water.”

When the group visited the LWMF in September 2014, they were told that the facility should be up and running by December 2014.

“We are now more than half-way to 2017 and we still see no functional facility that will safely receive and recycle our mercury-containing lamp waste,” said Abinales.

In March 2014, the EcoWaste Coalition released a photo investigative report entitled “The Toxic Silence of the Lamps,” which documents the haphazard disposal of mercury-containing lamp waste in Metro Manila’s 17 local government units.    

The report can be downloaded here: https://sites.google.com/site/ thetoxicsilenceofthelamps/

According to the report, “the indiscriminate disposal of busted or spent fluorescent lamps as common trash is not only polluting the surroundings, but is also exposing waste handlers, informal recyclers and the public to mercury, a potent neurotoxin, which can lead to acute and chronic intoxication even at low  levels of exposure.”

In the same letter, the EcoWaste Coalition urged the office of Secretary Cusi to issue a Certificate of Concurrence to the government’s ratification of the Minamata Convention on Mercury and to transmit the same to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). 

Signed by former DENR Secretary Ramon J.P. Paje in October 2013 at a diplomatic conference in Japan, the Minamata Convention seeks to protect human health and the environment by reducing mercury supply and trade, phasing out or phasing down mercury-containing products and by controlling mercury emissions and releases.

Article 4 of the Minamata Convention provides for the phase-out by 2020 of certain products of interest to the DOE, specifically,  compact fluorescent lamps (CFL) equal to or less than 30 watts containing more than 5 mg mercury per bulb, linear fluorescent bulbs – triband lamps less than 60 watts and containing greater than 5 mg, mercury, halophosphate lamps less than 40 watts and containing greater than 10 mg mercury, high pressure mercury vapor lamps, mercury in a variety of cold cathode fluorescent lamps (CCFL) and external electrode fluorescent lamps (EEFL).

The Philippines has yet to ratify the Minamata Convention.

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For more information about the mercury treaty, please visit http://www.mercuryconvention.o rg/