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Green Groups: Safely Manage Busted Fluorescent Lamps to Avoid Mercury Vapor Release

Broken fluorescent lamps lying on the sidewalk of Aurora Blvd. near corner Dona Hemady St.
Broken fluorescent lamps lying on the sidewalk of Aurora Blvd. near corner Dona Hemady St.

28 March 2023, Quezon City. Two Quezon City-based environmental organizations reminded the public to abide by the city’s regulations governing the disposal of busted fluorescent lamps to prevent mercury vapor release from such lighting products.

The Mother Earth Foundation (MEF) and the EcoWaste Coalition urged households, schools, business and commercial establishments to adhere to the provisions of Quezon City Ordinance No. 1483, series of 2005 and Quezon City Ordinance No. 2350, series of 2014 toward the safe management of spent lamps containing mercury.

The groups issued the reminder after the latter monitored fluorescent lamps left abandoned at the sidewalk of Aurora Boulevard near corner Doña Hemady Street last January 20, and the sidewalk of V. Luna Avenue near corner Malakas Street last March 24.

“We enjoin residents and all other users of fluorescent lamps to abide by the city’s regulations to prevent the breakage of such lamps and the eventual discharge of its mercury content in the form of vapor that is harmful if inhaled,” said Sonia Mendoza, Chairman, MEF. “Spent fluorescent lamps should be separated from other discards and handled with great care to avoid breakage.”

“Sustained public information on the dangers of improper disposal of fluorescent lamps and the safety measures to be followed to promote the environmentally sound management of such wastes will surely help in protecting public health and the environment from mercury pollution,” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

Prevent breakage and release of toxic mercury

In line with the said ordinances, the groups called on QC’s Department of Sanitation and Cleanup Works, or DSQC, to launch an information and compliance drive on safe lamp waste management, including monitoring the storage of collected lamps at the various Barangay Materials Recovery Facilities (BMRFs) and their collection by the city-contracted hazardous waste hauler/treater. The DSQC is the lead department responsible for the city’s sanitation and waste programs and compliance with environmental laws and regulations.

QC Ordinance 1483, series of 2005 declares busted mercury-containing lamps as “hazardous wastes,” and obligates “all residents to segregate spent fluorescent light bulbs from common garbage so as to eliminate exposure from mercury.”

QC Ordinance 2350 provides for the adoption of the QC Environment Code, which includes provisions on how busted fluorescent lamps are to be managed.

According to Section 5, Chapter IV of the QC Environment Code, “household hazardous wastes such as busted fluorescent lamps and spent batteries shall be separated from domestic wastes.” Households are further required to bring busted fluorescent lamps and spent batteries to the BMRF for temporary storage until collected by a city-contracted hazardous waste collector, transporter or treater. The city government will not be responsible for the collection of such hazardous wastes generated by business and commercial establishments, according to the Code.

Busted fluorescent lamps left abandoned in V. Luna Ave. near corner Malakas St.
Busted fluorescent lamps left abandoned in V. Luna Ave. near corner Malakas St.

Anticipating the increased volume of compact fluorescent lamps and linear fluorescent lamps to be discarded and replaced with non-mercury LED alternatives as per the Minamata Convention on Mercury, the groups also urged the national authorities to put in place a functional system for collecting and recycling spent fluorescent lamps.

In particular, the groups again asked the Department of Energy (DoE) to activate the mercury lamp waste recycling equipment costing $1.37 million that has been gathering dust in Taguig City. The equipment was procured by the DoE as part of the Asian Development Bank-funded Philippine Energy Efficiency Project. It was successfully operated on a pilot basis in 2013-2014, but has been dormant since then.

The Lamp Waste Management Facility (LWMF), as it is called, consists of a processor for fluorescent tube lamps, a processor for high intensity discharge lamps, a batch process distiller, a drying oven and a vapor monitor.

According to the DoE, the LWMF has the capacity to treat six million lamps per year for 8-hour daily operations, retrieving 88% glass, 5% metals, 3% powders with rare earth, 0.005% mercury and 4% other materials (including resinous materials).




EcoWaste Coalition
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