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Mercury in Compact Fluorescent Lamps

4. What would be the benefits of increased separate collection of compact fluorescent lamps?

    The SCHER opinion states:

    3.3 Question C
    Assess the risk to the environment from the mercury liberated upon disposal of CFLs, taking into account the above-mentioned limit of 5 mg mercury per CFL, the requirements for separate collection of the CFLs and for removal of the mercury from the collected CFLs. Would the risk be significantly reduced by strengthening these requirements?

    In 3.2 the SCHER concluded that environmental risks due to use and disposal of CFLs are unlikely.

    To assess the effect of separate collection (and removal of Hg from the collected Hg - i.e. recycling) and a reduced Hg content of the CFLs on the total Hg release into the environment, SCHER calculated different scenarios (Table 3). In the exposure assessment performed in 3.2, it was assumed that each CFL unit contained 4.5 mg and that 20% of the CFLi units were recycled. Using this scenario and the 2007 sales data, this calculation resulted in an Hg emission of 1592 kg in the EU-27 area. Increasing the recycling efficiency to 100% will result in 71% less Hg being released (reduced from 1592 to 462 kg /y).

    A 50% reduction in the Hg content (to 2.25 mg) of the CFL (combined with 20% recycling) will decrease the Hg emission to 660 kg/y.

    Table 3: Effect different recycling efficiency and Hg content of the CFL on the total environmental release of Hg.

    As indicated above, present use and disposal of CFLs are unlikely to pose environmental risks. Separate collection of the CFLs and removal of the mercury from the collected CFLs will reduce Hg emission (Table 3).

    Source & ©: SCHER,  Opinion on Mercury in Certain Energy-saving Light Bulbs (2010), p.14.

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