Friday, November 13, 2009

CFLs in India and why I am worried…

In my last post on CFLs my readers would note my optimistic pitch and tinged with a bit a caution regarding how CFLs should be disposed. One should note that when something new is introduced in the US or EU or Australia a lot of strategic thinking and planning is put in place. In this case introduction of CFLs being backed by outreach(in my view not sufficient enough) regarding its benefits and also how to dispose them at the end of their lifecycle. It is important that CFLs are kept out of landfills or trashcans due to the mercury component in them. In US several stores like IKEA, Home Depot take back used CFLs. Recycling centers also take back CFLs.

CFLs in India however is another story. Let me explain – I am not against CFLs. Do use them in your homes..but can the thrifty Indian be warned enough that please avoid cheap ones. They do not last and break easily. In India CFLs have penetrated the poorer sectors as well. The transition for them has been from no light to CFLs. CFLs can run on batteries and hence in many rural areas it allows them to be off-grid(thru use of solar panels). It worries me that people are not sufficiently aware that what to do with a bulb at the end of its life. It worries me that there is no safe disposal system for recycling of CFLs in India. A recent article from Toxic Alert highlights this concern. Greenpeace in India has led several campaigns highlighting the effects of mercury release from these bulbs. As a result of the bad press that CFLs have received the pro-CFL lobby in India went on to show that the amount of mercury to be released due to CFLs will be miniscule as compared to the emissions of mercury from coal production. People in India somehow miss the whole point I guess. The focus should be on safe use of CFLs and safe disposal!

I am aware of hazardous waste management facilities run by RAMKY in the country do accept CFLs. Municipalities, townships, village representatives should be made aware of disposal of hazardous waste. A CSE report on CFLs in India clearly highlights the regulatory and management issues for a successful CFL program in the country(Study published in Down To Earth (January 15-
31, 2009).

Proper recycling and disposal of CFLs is a must – at manufacturers site or common waste management facility ? Or both with differing costs?

As highlighted by the CSE study the way forward is

• Existing recycling facilities at manufacturing sites must be
made available so that CFLs can be recycled even before
the government mechanism is put in place
• Cost of disposal must be part of the cost of the CFL
• A system must involve buy back of burned out CFLs

At present – the least you can do -

1. Buy your bulbs from reliable sources (marked by BIS)

2. If a CFL breaks in your home, be sure to disperse the harmful vapors by opening a window prior to cleaning up the pieces. Sweep up the fragments, taking care not to touch them with your hands and place the pieces in a sealed plastic bag for disposal. Be sure to wipe the area where the breakage occurred to make sure all fragments are removed.

3. Ask your township for a recycling of these bulbs.

4. Ask your dealer to will take back used bulbs or bulbs which fuse within a year.

Bye for now….

Do send your comments, concerns and forward this post.



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