This report investigates ways to promote the recycling and better management of mercury-containing lamps. It makes several recommendations to guide the development of a stewardship scheme and describes such schemes overseas.
The report reviews the increased use of mercury-containing lamps, such as compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), and examines ways to lower concerns over the health and environmental impacts of mercury. Although many mercury-containing lamps lead to lower mercury emissions over their life cycle due to their higher energy efficiency than normal lamps, there are opportunities to reduce emissions further through better end-of-life management.
The report recommends that recycling rates be increased from nine per cent via a voluntary industry-led product stewardship scheme. Product stewardship involves those in the manufacture, use and disposal of a product taking responsibility for the environmental effects of their product throughout its life.
Commissioned by the Lighting Council and the Electricity Commission, this independent report was prepared by the environmental consultants Stewardship Solutions with project support from the Ministry for the Environment.
The report is part of a series of three reports that strengthen the evidence base for a potential industry-led voluntary product stewardship scheme. The other reports are Mercury Inventory of New Zealand 2008 and Life Cycle Assessment of Product Stewardship Options for Mercury-Containing Lamps in New Zealand.
There were 32 million lamps imported into New Zealand in 2006. 8.7 million of these were mercury-containing lamps.
The lighting market is complex, with different technologies and a wide range of end users. There have also been government interventions in the market that have or will change the technology in use in New Zealand. These include the Electricity Commission subsidising compact fluorescent lamps and EECA introducing Minimum Energy Performance Standards (MEPS) for linear fluorescent lamps and incandescent lamps (proposed).
The use of mercury helps to make lighting more efficient. A mercury-containing compact fluorescent lamp is up to 80% more efficient than a standard incandescent lamp for example. The majority of environmental impacts from lighting occur during the use of a lamp, through the consumption of electricity. Therefore, while mercury is a potentially dangerous substance it offers environmental benefits that outweigh its impacts. This is the ‘mercury dilemma’ of lighting.
This study has estimated that in 2007 approximately 5.6 million lamps entered the waste stream in New Zealand, equating to 717 tonnes. Of these 5.6 million lamps, just 500,000 were collected and recycled, meaning 91% of lamps were disposed of to landfill.
Lighting represents a small portion of solid waste generation in New Zealand – just 0.02%. Lighting is a relatively minor source of mercury arising from products. The total load of mercury from gas discharge lamps [linear fluorescents, compact fluorescents and high intensity discharge] is currently (2007) estimated to be 45kgs. It is expected to almost double in the next 5 years. This increase will result from the compact fluorescent lamps already in use.
Lighting is highly visible to consumers and therefore becoming of increasing public concern. Lighting is seen as a readily controllable source of mercury in our environment and the industry has come under closer scrutiny from customers and government to take action to address mercury-containing lamp waste.
There are no mercury-containing lamps manufactured in New Zealand and there are a limited number of importers – 8 importers represent 93% of the gas discharge lamp market. This market dynamic offers good opportunities for the development of a simple product stewardship solution with reduced opportunity for freeriders.
Our key recommendation is that the 8 companies that represent 93% of gas discharge lamps imported into New Zealand begin a process to develop a voluntary product stewardship scheme for their products. This scheme needs to incorporate labelling, a commitment to reducing mercury content, public education and raising awareness about the safe handling of mercury-containing lamps. It also needs to involve ongoing collection of industry information on all lamps.
We have also recommended that the mercury flows of New Zealand are researched and that the lighting technology scenarios are re-modelled once the Electricity Commission announces the successful proposals from the Efficient Lighting Programme.