Lighting impacts the environment from product manufacture through to final disposal. The manufacturing of lamps consumes energy and resources, lamps use energy to operate, and when lamps die they become waste that must be disposed of or recycled.
There are different types of lighting technologies on the market, and some need to be managed differently than others when they become waste.
Incandescent lamps (both the old-style tungsten filament and more efficient tungsten halogen ones) and other halogen lamps can be disposed of with household rubbish.
Fluorescent lamps, including the well-known compact fluorescent lamps (or CFLs), are different because they contain small amounts of mercury. While the mercury poses no immediate threat to human health or the environment when the lamps are used, mercury is a toxic substance so these lamps need to be managed properly when they become waste. See the Ministry for the Environment’s guidelines on proper disposal of spent or broken household lamps.
New waste legislation, the Waste Minimisation Act, was passed in September 2008. In the case of lamps, this legislation can be used to encourage, and if lamps become a priority product mandate, manufacturers to develop a product stewardship scheme to reduce mercury and develop recycling programs.
Product stewardship means that producers, brand owners, importers, retailers, consumers and other parties take responsibility for the environmental impacts of their products over the whole-of-life of the product, and especially to ensure proper management at end-of-life.
Work to develop a lighting product stewardship scheme is already underway. The government has been providing advise and oversight as the lighting industry develops its product stewardship scheme proposal.
Energy efficient lighting uses less energy and lasts longer, so using it means fewer lamps end up in the landfill in the long term. It also means energy savings for consumers and environmental benefits for the whole country.
A lack of standards means poor quality and inefficient lighting products can enter our market, so the government is in the process of setting standards to prevent the worst performing lighting products from being sold, and increase lighting efficiency in New Zealand.
The first standards are proposed for November 2009.
For standard incandescent lighting, it would mean only the more efficient halogen incandescent – which look just like old-style tungsten filament ones – could be sold (though no old-style bulbs would disappear until there are good replacements available)
For CFLs, it would mean they have to meet a range of standards including efficiency, mercury levels, light quality and length of life.
Public consultation will occur before the standards are introduced. For more information on these standards or the public consultation period, contact the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) toll free at 0800 358 676.
The Act can be viewed at www.legislation.govt.nz. This website provides public access to unofficial versions of New Zealand legislation and statutory regulations. You can search and browse this material free of charge.
Last updated: 1 November 2012