City to get pilot project on safe disposal of mercury in CFLs

Hazardous metal waste can affect brain and nervous system if not disposed of properly

The city is likely to be chosen for a project on disposal of "fused" compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) bulbs that contain mercury - a hazardous metal that can affect the brain and nervous system if not disposed of properly.

A report submitted jointly by TERI and the Electric Lamp and Components Manufacturers' Association of India (ELCOMA), which represents the CFL manufacturers, proposes that Delhi and Bangalore should be the two sites for the pilot project.

Disposal of CFLs has been a controversial issue because prolonged exposure to the toxic metal, mercury, can lead to serious health problems. Safe disposal has proved tricky because of problems at all three stages - extraction of mercury from the bulbs, transportation of the metal and recycling.

The report submitted to the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests in December last year, recommends a six-month project.

Spent CFL bulbs will be collected from households and put in carbon-coated drums. These will be then crushed under a mercury-absorbing filter to restrict vapours from getting into the air. This will make transportation easier.

These drums will be taken to a recycling site where the mercury will be extracted from the crushed glass and converted into sulphide.

H S Mamak, adviser for ELCOMA, said: "We have submitted our proposal. We are awaiting a formal go-ahead."

A Delhi government official confirmed that the ministry could soon sanction the project.

The country doesn't have a law on CFL disposal, though the Environment Ministry and the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) have been brainstorming to frame a draft legislation since 2007.

In 2008, a task force comprising representatives from the ministry, the Bureau of Energy Efficiency and the pollution board submitted its report recommending imposition of tax on CFL bulbs to fund the recycling process.

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