Is the mercury contained in the CFL recycled in India?
Replying to a parliamentary question in December 2011, the Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) of the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), Ms. Jayanthi Natarajan informed the Lok Sabha said the Ministry and the Central Pollution Control Board had written to State Governments asking them to encourage establishment of recycling units for the fused fluorescent tube lights (FTL) and compact fluorescent lamps (CFL).
A Task Force on Environmentally Sound Management of Mercury in the Fluorescent Lamp sector appointed five years ago by the MoEF has submitted its report. All experts seem to agree that the issue of adopting an environmentally sound practice for the management of Mercury in the CFL and FTL should not be delayed any longer. As the magnitude of the problem is taking menacing proportions, the responsibility rests with the government, industry and citizens for the management of mercury. The annual domestic production of fluorescent tube lights (FTL) and compact fluorescent lamps (CFL) involves the use of about eight tonnes of mercury, and another three tonnes is attributed to imported CFLs.
Under Schedule II of the Hazardous Waste (Management, Handling and Transboundary Movement) Rules, 2008 Mercury and mercury compounds are listed as a Class A substance. However, as a part of CFL, mercury larely ends up as a municipal waste and either contaminating surface, sub-soil water or as vapours. The Indian rules do not specifically identify fluorescent lamps either as municipal waste, or hazardous waste.
In a reply to an application filed under RTI Act to enquire about the practices adopted by the Chennai Municipal Corporation for collection, handling and disposal of fused CFL and batteries, it was informed that the said items are not falling under the category of Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) and hence it is not the responsibility of the corporation. The situation in other cities would be similar.
A possible solution which has been suggested is to involve the consumers of the CFL in conservation efforts. Perhaps, providing a cash incentive for handing over the fused CFL to authorised recycling center can act as a possible collection measure. Further, recycling centers have to be set up with the help of the industry and government.