Unmonitored CFL disposal ups environmental hazards

A large number of consumers have switched to using Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs) to save electricity but in the absence of any monitoring system and with most of the disposal chain being in the informal sector, there is an increased risk of the hazardous mercury from CFLs escaping into the environment, a study on CFL use and disposal has claimed.

The study, “Light without the poison: Putting An End to Mercury Escape from Light Bulbs”, done in collaboration between NGO Chintan Environmental Research And Action Group and German International Cooperation, the German Government’s international development agency, has found high risks due to the long chain of CFL handlers. Door to door waste collectors and street waste pickers collect used CFLs and sell these to small traders who in turn sell it to big traders. Twice or thrice a week, big traders sell these to refurbishers and recyclers.

The study in Delhi found that large amounts of CFLs are sent from Delhi to Muzaffarnagar and Moradabad in Uttar Pradesh to dismantlers and refurbishers.

Of the respondents surveyed for the study, a majority said they break the CFLs to retrieve plastics and metals, and 98 per cent traders said they break the CFLs to recover electronic parts. In each of these instances, there is a high probability of mercury being released into the environment.

Also, the study found over 68 per cent traders were unaware of mercury being present in CFLs and of its hazardous potential. But the good news was that 40 per cent of respondents expressed willingness to join the system for safe recycling of CFLs if provided the right incentives.

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