Energy-saving light bulbs, namely compact fluorescent lights (CFLs)  are widely available on the market in SA and are offered for saving electricity. They also eventually reduce carbon dioxide emissions particularly from coal-fired power plants due to the lower wattage required as compared to incandescent bulbs. A 60w incandescent bulb can be replaced with a14w CFL. That is a substantial saving, well if you take a one dimensional view that is. What you may not know is that energy saving CFLs are mercury based.

According to Directive 2002/95/EC on the restriction of hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment (RoHS Directive), a mercury content in CFLs not exceeding 5 mg per lamp is allowed

The above-mentioned 5 mg mercury tolerance for CFLs is being reviewed on a regular basis, in line with the four-year-review period prescribed by the RoHS Directive (The Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive 2002/95/EC) in support of any future review, it may be appropriate to consider the potential risks associated with the release of mercury from a CFL when it accidentally breaks in the hands of a consumer, for example while replacing a CFL.

Clean-up of the debris of a broken CFL has been described as complicated, requiring, for example, the removal of the mercury droplets with adhesive tape and their disposal as special waste. This again points to the risk caused by the breakage of a CFL in a consumer’s home.

Concerning disposal, CFLs need to be sorted from municipal waste and the mercury from the collected CFLs needs to be removed. This also strengthens the requirement for separate collection, and transport to be carried out in a way which optimises the confinement of hazardous substances.

In South Africa, education of such fundamentals is almost non-existent, neither are the systems and procedures revolving around usage and disposal of energy savers. Consider for a second, how many energy savers have gone in to the bin at home and has made its way to the landfills…In shock yet??

Educate yourself…investigate the options, be responsible.