Proposes pilot project for collecting, recycling CFLs in three cities
While the government is yet to draft a law to regulate disposal of compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), the manufacturing industry has finalised its report and guidelines for safe disposal of the bulbs. These are likely to be made public soon. The report addresses all industry and environmental concerns regarding disposal of CFL bulbs, say industry representatives.
Disposal of CFLs is a major environmental concern because these contain mercury, a neurotoxin. High levels of mercury intake can damage the brain, the reproductive system, foetuses and cause behavioural problems.
The industry report, to be presented to an inter-ministerial group looking into safe disposal of CFLs, suggests a pilot project of six to eight months in Delhi, Ahmedabad and Bengaluru. The two-phase pilot is proposed beginning March 2012, reveal industry sources. It proposes that CFLs be collected and disposed in crusher drums that will pass through colonies on a weekly basis. The drums, which will be carbon coated (to contain the mercury released from the crushed CFLs), will then be taken to a mother plant where glass and aluminium will be extracted from the waste for recycling.
Rising electricity prices has led to a sharp increase in production and sale of CFLs in India. In 2003, 20 million lamps were produced; by 2008 this number had increased to 200 million units. But disposal of these lamps have neither been regulated nor monitored. “The mercury content in CFL bulbs is high and their unsafe disposal maybe causing great environmental damage,” points out H C Kandpal scientist at the Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) and chairman of the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) committee set up in 2008 to prepare the standards for mercury content in CFLs and their disposal.
No check on mercury in CFLs
Last year, non-profit Toxics Link released a study proving CFLs in India do not abide by any standards. The non-profit checked 22 samples of four leading manufacturing brands of CFLs in the country. The study showed mercury presence of up to 21.2 mg per CFL unit. This is much higher than a 2008 survey of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) which said the average mercury used in CFLs is approximately 7.5 mg. Ravi Agarwal, director of Toxics Link says, globally, 60 tonnes of mercury leeches into the environment each year. In India, the amount of mercury released into the environment each year is approximately 8.5 tonnes.
Agarwal questions delay on the government's part in notifying a law to monitor and regulate CFLs. “CPCB recently added extended producer responsibility (wherein manufacturers are responsible for ensuring proper disposal of their products) to e-waste rules. The same could have been done for CFLs through a small amendment. But it was not done.” The e-waste rules will come into force from May 2012 but the government seems to be dragging its feet on regulations for CFLs, he adds.
The draft law was to be ready by the end of 2011 and the rules were to come into force early 2012 the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) had said last year.
In 2007, MoEF had set up a task force to look into the matter. The task force, comprising members of BEE, CPCB, MoEF and industry representatives, submitted its report in May 2008. It suggested the following: prescribing mercury content in CFLs; evolving mechanism for their collection, transportation, recycling and disposal; developing financial mechanism for operating the entire recycling process; and framing rules and regulations for strict implementation of the recommendations by states.
The suggested rules included extended producer responsibility, requiring manufacturers to buy back CFLs. It also suggested a tax on CFLs in order to ensure resources for their proper disposal.
Following this, BIS prepared the rules.
Industry rejected government regulations
But the industry rejected the task force report, saying that if any of the suggestions were made mandatory they would make CFLs expensive. The CFL manufacturers then commissioned TERI to prepare a report to find possible disposal solutions for CFLs. The much-awaited reported has been finalised only now and will soon be presented to the inter-ministerial group set, say sources. CPCB member secretary J S Kamyotra says he has heard the report has been finalised but is yet to receive a copy.
Shayam Sojan, secretary general of the Electric Lamp and Components Manufacturers' Association of India says, “the previous report failed to address financial and technical aspects of CFL disposal.” He adds that the present report endorsed by the industry addresses all technical, financial and logistic concerns. It also includes an awareness campaign.
The government has also been dragging its feet on conducting an awareness campaign on the harmful effects of not disposing of CFLs safely. MoEF and pollution control boards were directed by the task force to start a nation-wide campaign in 2008 on CFLs. Kandpal admits “it is yet to start.” He, however, adds that before the year ends there will be a strict legislation in place once the industry and government agencies agree upon the method and cost of disposing of CFLs. Adding that the government is looking at the best possible solution, Kandpal says the inter-ministerial group is to meet within a month to appraise and implement the report prepared by the industry.
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