A MERCURY recycling facility bought by the government in 2013 for more than US $1 million of remains unused and rotting in a warehouse in Taguig City.
This was disclosed by the Philippine EcoWaste Coalition on Monday shortly after it sent a letter to the Department of Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi asking the department to put into use the wasting Lamp Waste Management Facility (LWMF) facility which cost the Filipino taxpayers US $1.37 million.
The LWMF is a recycling facility that recovers mercury from busted or used up lamps. It was bought from a Swedish company in 2013 and, except for its pilot phase, has remained unused since then. The facility is a component of the DoE-led Philippine Energy Efficiency Project supported by a loan from the Asian Development Bank.
The Coalition explained that a LWMF “facility is where all spent mercury-containing lamps shall undergo recycling to recover mercury and other by-products (to) avert residual mercury from entering the food chain through landfill leaching into ground water.”
Noli Abinales, EcoWaste Coalition president, in his letter to Secretary Cusi wrote “we hope that your office is one with us in recognizing the urgent need for the government to operationalize the LWMF and implement a practical system for the safe recycling of lamp waste to minimize mercury pollution due to the improper disposal of fluorescent lamps at the end of their useful life.”
“Under your watch, we hope that the DoE will be successful in getting a qualified operator to run the LWMF at the soonest time possible,” he added.
Abinales, at the same time, expressed fears that “the prolonged non-operation of the facility can take its toll on the multi-million peso equipment, while spent lamps continue to be arbitrarily disposed of like ordinary trash, contaminating human bodies and the environment with toxic mercury.”
When Coalition members visited the LWMF in September 2014, they were told that the facility should be up and running by December 2014.
“We are now more than half-way to 2017 and we still see no functional facility that will safely receive and recycle our mercury-containing lamp waste,” said Abinales.
In March 2014, the Coalition released a photo investigative report entitled “The Toxic Silence of the Lamps,” which documents the haphazard disposal of mercury-containing lamp waste in dumpsites.
The report can be downloaded here: https://sites.google.com/site/ thetoxicsilenceofthelamps/
According to the report, “the indiscriminate disposal of busted or spent fluorescent lamps as common trash is not only polluting the surroundings, but is also exposing waste handlers, informal recyclers and the public to mercury, a potent neurotoxin, which can lead to acute and chronic intoxication even at low levels of exposure.”
Meanwhile, the Coalition urges Secretary Cusi to issue a Certificate of Concurrence to the government’s ratification of the Minamata Convention on Mercury and to transmit the same to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
Signed by former DENR Secretary Ramon J.P. Paje in October 2013 at a diplomatic conference in Japan, the Minamata Convention seeks to protect human health and the environment by reducing mercury supply and trade, phasing out or phasing down mercury-containing products and by controlling mercury emissions and releases.
Article 4 of the Minamata Convention provides for the phase-out by 2020 of certain products of interest to the DOE, specifically, compact fluorescent lamps (CFL) equal to or less than 30 watts containing more than 5 mg mercury per bulb, linear fluorescent bulbs – triband lamps less than 60 watts and containing greater than 5 mg , mercury, halophosphate lamps less than 40 watts and containing greater than 10 mg mercury, high pressure mercury vapor lamps, mercury in a variety of cold cathode fluorescent lamps (CCFL) and external electrode fluorescent lamps (EEFL).
The Philippines has yet to ratify the Minamata Convention.