Proposed plan for disposal of mercury bearing lamps for India
The mercury-bearing lamps, towards the end-of-life, pose significant hazard potential due to the likely release of mercury. Though, these fluorescent lamps (FLs) release relatively less quantity of mercury when disposed as compared to other mercury-based products, they are still a concern due to the large and further growing number of FLs in service, particularly, in the domestic sector and their fragile nature.
At the end-of-life, compact fluorescent lamps/fluorescent tube lights (CFLs/FTLs) are either disposed in bulk (sold in auction) or disposed individually along with municipal waste. Proper and safe collection of these products would mean its intact collection, transportation, and recovery of different components including mercury. Currently, safe disposal is not practiced in any part of India. Presently, a fraction of the generated end-of-life FLs are being collected by the informal sector (junk dealers), largely from the large-scale consumers (industries and corporate). The lamps are then disassembled by crude methods into useful components such as glass tubes (glass and phosphor powder), aluminum end caps, polypropylene caps, and electronic ballasts (electronic components which contain metal).
An all India primary survey on the lamp users indicates that average replacement rate per household per year for CFLs and FTLs is about 1.26 and 1.05, respectively. The survey also indicated that majority of consumers are not willing to take the direct responsibility in funding system, therefore, a decentralized system of collection should work in Indian conditions. The recovery chain has to be clearly established with incentive-based roles identified for household consumers, retailers, and junk dealers. Further, the onward linkages must be assured so that the collected wastes are recycled and residues adequately disposed of.
The proposed institutional framework for safe collection and recycling system has three subsystems - the Producer Responsibility Organization (PRO), the Producer Responsibility Fund (PRF), and the system's integrator. Keeping with the principles of extended producer responsibility (EPR), the institutional framework allocates financial responsibility for establishing PRF to the producers, and physical responsibility to the range of actors including the PROs, the collection agents, recyclers, urban local bodies (ULBs), central and state agencies, and finally the consumers. The system integrator works to furnish information at all levels to achieve transparency in the set-up.
The model for collection and recycling of used FLs can be rolled out in phases targeting the first 2 years a 35% recycling rate for waste lamps, 45% recycling rate in next 1 year, and 60% recycling rate in the following years. There are three scenarios discussed for implementation of lamps collection and recycling program at the national level.
A comprehensive public awareness campaign is needed to sensitize the range of actors to their roles and responsibilities. The awareness program should be started before undertaking the pilot so that potential recyclers and technology providers, NGOs, ULBs, private firms, as well as the manufacturers, sellers, and consumers of the FLs are conscious about the elements of the proposed master plan, its implementation, and the need for safe disposal of spent FLs.