Energy-saving lamps contain mercury and recyclable metals. For this reason they must not be disposed of in a waste disposal bag along with household refuse. They can be returned free of charge at the point of sale or at collection points.
An energy-saving lamp consists of a compact gas-filled fluorescent tube and an electronic ballast. Energy-saving lamps are also known as compact fluorescent lamps or low-energy lamps.
Energy-saving lamps contain small quantities of mercury (limit: 3.5 mg per lamp) as well as metals and glass. For this reason they are collected separately and disposed of in an environmentally compatible manner.
If an energy-saving lamp is recycled instead of being burned in a municipal solid waste incinerator, environmental pollution is reduced by around 15% according to an environmental life cycle assessment by Empa, the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology. Moreover, the metals and glass from the energy-saving lamps can be recaptured.
Energy-saving lamps are subject to the terms of the Ordinance of 14 January 1998 on the Return, the Taking-back and the Disposal of Electrical and Electronic equipment (ORDEE). ORDEE requires the consumer to return used energy-saving lamps to a dealer or a collection point (return obligation). Dealers who sell energy-saving lamps are obliged to take them back without charge and to pass them on to a recycling installation.
It is not yet possible to give reliable data for the effective collection rate for energy-saving lamps, because most lamps are still in use and are a long way from reaching the end of their technical life.
When energy-saving lamps are processed, the mercury is removed and, depending on the exact process, either recaptured or stored in an indissoluble form. The metals from the built-in electronic ballasts (e.g. copper) and the glass are recycled.
If energy-saving lamps are disposed of incorrectly in a household waste disposal bag they end up in the municipal solid waste incinerator. The multiple-stage flue gas cleaning in the incinerators prevents significant environmental pollution being produced.
On the other hand, the incorrect disposal of energy-saving lamps in the municipal waste increases the operating costs of the flue gas cleaning. Also, the raw materials - metals and glass - are not recovered from the energy-saving lamps.
The Swiss Lighting Recycling Foundation (SLRS) organizes on a voluntary basis the collection and environmentally sound disposal of energy-saving lamps. This is financed by prepaid recycling charges that are levied when energy-saving lamps are imported and sold.
Measures to be taken
For the future, it is necessary to ensure that used energy-saving lamps are correctly disposed of or recycled. It is therefore very important that up-to-date information is available on this subject.
Last modification 05.07.2019