Life-cycle flow of mercury and recycling scenario of fluorescent lamps in Japan

Asari, M.; Fukui, K.; Sakai, S. (2008) Science of the Total Environment, 393(1): 1-10

We summarized the mercury flow of mercury-containing products from their manufacture to their disposal in Japan and discussed the current management of mercury-containing hazardous household waste (HHW). The mercury flow originating from these products was estimated to be about 10-20 tonnes annually, about 5 tonnes of which was attributable to fluorescent lamps, the major mercury-containing product in Japan. The recent rapid increase in digital home electronics with liquid crystal displays (e.g., televisions, personal computers, mobile phones, and digital cameras) has led to a marked increase in the production of backlights, which are also fluorescent and contain mercury. Most of the annual flow was disposed of as waste, with only 0.6 tonnes Hg recovered. The mercury flow for end-of-life fluorescent lamps (excluding backlights) was analyzed under three scenarios for Kyoto, Japan for 2003: the present condition scenario, the improved recycling scenario, and the complete recycling scenario. Under the present condition scenario, mercury flow was calculated to be 34 kg Hg for incineration, 21 kg Hg for landfill, and only 4 kg Hg for recycling. The complete recycling scenario shows a simple flow, with all mercury recycled. Under this scenario for Kyoto, we calculated that a cyclic system having 47 kg of mercury (3.5 tonnes Hg in Japan) could be established if all fluorescent lamps (excluding those stored in residences) were collected and recycled. Mercury is a HHW priority chemical, and we need to limit its use and establish a closed-loop system. There are currently no regulations to achieve this, and the management of most HHWs is left to local governments. Therefore, products are disposed of in landfills or incinerated, except for some that are voluntarily collected and recycled. In order to recycle all of the waste fluorescent lamps, we must have a complete recycling system that has a high rate of public participation in collection. We also must have a closed-loop system of mercury recovery and reuse in which all stakeholders participate. Furthermore, it is important to share information and policies regarding fluorescent lamp recycling and related technologies with other countries, especially those in other countries, where fluorescent lamps are becoming more popular because of their high energy efficiency and long life. Also, it is important to develop mercury free and energy efficient lamps including LEDs (light emitting diodes).


Mercury; Substance flow; Fluorescent lamp; Hazardous household waste; Closed-loop system