When recycling goes wrong. . . .

Posted December 2, 2011 // Tagged as Blog // 6 Comments ↓


Sweden has been held up as the shining example of a country where recycling is taken responsibly. Unfortunately, as far as the compact fluorescent “energy saving” lamps are concerned things are going very wrong. Svensk Dagblat a major daily newspaper has initiated investigations into recycling that has uncovered some alarming statistics. It appears that around 200,000 CFLs are being incorrectly dumped in glass recycling containers each year. As this glass is expected to be non hazardous, workers who deal with collecting and sorting this are not provided with personal protective equipment that is required when dealing with mercury containing lamps. The result is that these workers have been exposed to potentially harmful quantities of mercury. The glass recyclers are now initiating tests for their employees to see if any are affected by mercury poisoning.

Last March the glass recycling and electrical industries met and agreed the seriousness of the problem however nothing has been achieved in resolving the situation. Frank Tholfsson, CEO of Swedish Glass Recycling (SGA) is quoted as saying of the lighting industry that “They have not taken the necessary steps, we still get this hazardous waste in our glass. Today there are no suitable collection.” SGA have been raising concerns on this issue since the beginning of the incandescent lamps phase out.

There is no way of determining how many CFLs are going into general waste and landfill. There is general concern that efforts made to remove mercury from other sources are now being undone by the massive increase of mercury entering the environment from CFLs.

Swedish Environment Minister Lena Ek has expressed concern and disappointment that the recycling of CFLs has not been properly addressed ” That we would replace the old energy-inefficient bulbs have been known for years, so I am disappointed that the recycling responsibility is not working. I will call the industry for informal discussions on these issues, we will get clear how they will handle these lamps. The meeting will take place before Christmas. This should not be delayed.” She is considering reviewing legislation “If necessary we will also look at producer responsibility for electrical waste, I am fully prepared to strengthen the legislation. We will review the issue with the environment ministry experts.”

if this is the situation in the European country that has the best record and infrastructure what is happening elsewhere in Europe? It seems even Eurocrats are beginning to recognise that the Incandescent lamp ban is not delivering genuine environmental benefits. The former adviser to Margot Wallström during her time as the EU’s environment commissioner, Minna Gillberg is quoted as saying of the ban ” The environmental benefit we are talking about here is really a political advantage. From this perspective the environmental benefits we speak of become an expression of a symbolic climate policy that benefits neither the environment or human health,”

Kevan Shaw 2-12-11

Thanks to Peter from http://freedomlightbulb.blogspot.com for alerting me to this story

6 Responses

  1. peter

    December 2nd, 2011 at 23:53

    well expanded on that post !

  2. peter

    December 2nd, 2011 at 23:55

    (I mean that you expanded well on it!)

  3. Mark

    December 12th, 2011 at 17:22

    The CFL bulbs are not all they are cracked up to be. Don’t get me wrong, I love energy savings, but there are some flaws with these. The mercury is a problem. They don’t last near as long as the box says they should. People take the easy way and don’t put them in a “proper” recycling bin, but throw them with all the rest of the stuff. They are a decent alternative, but should not be made mandatory by the government.

  4. CFL fail again! | Save The Bulb

    June 6th, 2012 at 12:24

    […] This echoes the problems identified with domestic lamp recycling in Sweden reported about in December […]

  5. […] a CFL switchover policy, is now regretting the consequences of the decision. A good more detailed review by Kevan at SaveTheBulb.org Also covering this news, in English: Greenwashing Lamps, including […]

  6. […] a CFL switchover policy, is now regretting the consequences of the decision. A good more detailed review by Kevan at SaveTheBulb.org Also covering this news, in English: Greenwashing Lamps, including […]

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