Groups Support “Take Back” Policy for Mercury-Containing Lamp Waste

Quezon City. A government-led initiative to introduce extended producer responsibility (EPR) for mercury-containing lamp waste has earned the support of waste and pollution non-government organizations (NGOs).

The EcoWaste Coalition and the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) expressed confidence that a robust EPR policy initiative will be crafted and enforced to curb the deleterious health and environmental impacts arising from the disposal of spent compact fluorescent lamps in waste bins and dumps.

Last week, the Department of Energy (DoE), in partnership with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), hosted an inception meeting on the feasibility and policy study of developing and establishing EPR for mercury-containing lamp waste.

Aside from DoE and DENR, the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), importers and distributors of energy efficient lightings, hazardous waste treaters and environmental NGOs took part in the meeting.

“True, we have switched from inefficient incandescent bulbs to efficient lighting systems such as compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs). 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,” said DoE Undersecretary Loreta Ayson.

EPR, also known as “producer take back,” is a system in which producers take responsibility, physical and/or financial, for the environmental and social impacts of their products throughout their life cycle.

“Specifically, this will mean that producers of fluorescent lamps will be in charge of the collection, processing and reclamation of their products when they are no longer useful or discarded,” said Thony Dizon of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project PROTECT.

“At present, there is no safe system for managing end-of-life lamps, which are often thrown into regular bins and sent to disposal sites where these are dumped, burned or recycled in unsafe conditions,” he said.

The EcoWaste Coalition had earlier complained to former Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes and former Environment Secretary Joselito Atienza about the problematic disposal of burnt-out lamps that 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 right 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,” said Manny Calonzo, Co-Coordinator of GAIA.

“This effort, we also hope, will lead to greater industry commitment to invest in product research and development to mainstream energy efficient and climate-friendly lights that are mercury-free,” he said.

During the meeting, environmental advocates also pressed the DoE to ensure meaningful stakeholders’ participation in the establishment of a proposed “mercury waste management facility,” stressing the importance of public views being fully heard and considered.

Under the country’s laws, namely Republic Act 6969 and Republic Act 9003, lamp waste is considered hazardous and should not be mixed with recyclable and compostable discards. These laws further require the proper management and disposal of lamp waste through appropriate hazardous waste treatment facilities.

Data from the Philippine Efficient Lighting Market Transformation Project (PELMATP) show that 88% of households and 77 % of commercial establishments surveyed disposed their lamp waste as domestic waste.

The DoE has commissioned the International Institute for Energy Conservation and Innogy Solutions, Inc. to conduct the said feasibility and policy study on EPR for mercury-containing lamp waste.

RA 6969 = Toxic Substances and Hazardous and Nuclear Wastes Act
RA 9003 = Ecological Solid Waste Management Act

Philippine Efficient Lighting Market Transformation Project (PELMATP)