CFL to LED: Prakash Path with a dark truth
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Prakash Path, an UJALA scheme (http://www.ujala.gov.in/ ) christened by honourable Prime Minister Sh. Narendra Modi for supplying subsidised LED bulbs is leaving behind a toxic trail that is not being noticed in the glow of the LED lamps. While the LED distribution scheme rightly prides itself on huge energy savings and reduction in CO2 emissions, what it does not track is the amount of Mercury being released due to improper disposal of the replaced CFLs and Tubelights. As LEDs increasingly replace fluorescent lamps, a large number of CFLs and Tubelights are being discarded every day with no infrastructure and mechanism for their collection and safe disposal. Each CFL bulb release 3-5 mg of Mercury vapour when broken. Mercury is considered dangerous beyond 0.0002 mg per m3 (http://www.who.int/phe/news/Mercury-flyer.pdf ).More than 1,00,000 CFLs and Tubelights are being discarded every day in India (http://www.ujala.gov.in/ )of which just about 10% are recycled in authorised facilities (http://www.assocham.org/newsdetail-print.php?id=5725 ).The rest are being crushed in unsafe conditions to salvage the metal parts, releasing Mercury vapours into the atmosphere. This leads to 270,000-450,000 mg of Mercury being added to our environment every day. Exposure to Mercury is extremely dangerous and leads to severe deformities especially in foetuses and children.
Heavy metals like Mercury stay in the system for long and often enter food chain through soil, water and air. As we continue to dispose used fluorescent lamps in an unsafe manner, Wound caused by broken CFL, further infected by Mercury
with every discarded fluorescent lamp we are endangering ourselves and future generations. As per the e-waste Management Rules 2016, used CFLs and Tubelights are to be sent to centralized Treatment Storage & Disposal Facilities (TSDF) for hazardous waste disposal. The entire country has just 41 TSDF (http://cpcbenvis.nic.in/tsdf.html ) presently. Transporting these bulbs to these facilities entails high cost and significant breakage, thereby acting as a deterrent for safe disposal, especially in the absence of strict enforcement of the rules. As a result, bulk of the bulbs are handled informally where Mercury is released in the air. Many other countries like Australia and USA have certified decentralised Mercury extraction facilities for fluorescent lamp disposals e.g. Balcan Lamp recycling (http://www.cfl-lamprecycling.com/products/balcan-lamp-recycling-systems-the-range-2.htm ),Bulb Eater (http://www.aircycle.com/docs/bulb-eater-faq.pdf ),MRT systems (http://www.mrtsystem.com/products/lamp-recycling/ ).Through this petition we request Dr Harsh Vardhan, Minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change to address this dangerous unregulated disposal of used fluorescent lamps on a war footing. Two key actions to address this are:
1. Assessing different options and certifying commercially available Mercury extraction machines instead of allowing disposal only at TSDF facilities which are very few and cost significantly more. Such machines are more economical and can be operated in small scale at decentralized locations.
2. Establishment of decentralised fluorescent lamp disposal facilities through EPR (Extended Producer Responsibilities) or using CSR funds thereby enforcing E-Waste (Management) Rules 2016.
This intervention has to be done in a mission mode as bulk of the lamps would be discarded in this year. Any significant delay would lead to the exercise being futile.
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