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LCQ9: Disposal of spent compact fluorescent lamps

     Following is a question by the Hon Yiu Si-wing and a written reply by the Secretary for the Environment, Mr Wong Kam-sing, in the Legislative Council today (July 17):


     In order to encourage the retirement of incandescent light bulbs (ILBs) and replacement by more energy-efficient lighting products (e.g. compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs)), the Environment Bureau rolled out last month an Energy Saving Charter on "No Incandescent Light Bulbs". By signing the Charter, suppliers and retailers pledge to stop replenishing stock of specified ILBs, and to stop selling such light bulbs by the end of this year.  However, it has been reported that some research studies have found out that the gas released by CFLs when they break contains mercury and phenol, which is harmful to human body, and the strong ultraviolet radiation emitted from CFLs may also cause skin cancer. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) whether the authorities have assessed, before rolling out the Energy Saving Charter, the impact of the light rays emitted from CFLs on the health conditions of photosensitive patients (e.g. patients suffering from Lupus Erythematosus); whether, after the sale of ILBs has completely stopped, safe lighting products will be available on the market for these patients to choose; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(b) apart from disposing of spent CFLs from government departments at the Chemical Waste Treatment Centre in Tsing Yi and encouraging the relevant recycling activities, what specific measures the authorities have put in place to properly dispose of spent CFLs, so as to prevent the toxic substances released by spent CFLs from causing harm to the health of the public and cleaners; and

(c) how the authorities will promote and educate the public on the correct use of CFLs and the risks involved, and how they will teach the public the safe way to clean up broken CFLs safely?



(a) In the past decade, lighting on average accounted for around 15% of total electricity consumption in Hong Kong. Incandescent light bulbs (ILB) are not energy-efficient as 90% of the electricity consumed is lost as heat whereas only 10% is used for lighting.  The Energy Saving Charter on "No ILB" rolled out by the Environment Bureau aims to encourage relevant suppliers and retailers to stop selling energy-inefficient ILB by the end of 2013. The Charter currently covers non-reflector type ILB of 25 watt or above, which operates at a single phase electricity supply of nominal voltage of 220 volts, including general lighting service lamps, candle shape, fancy round and other decorative lamps, but excluding tungsten halogen lamps.  Regarding alternatives, overseas countries and Hong Kong commonly adopt energy-efficient compact fluorescent lamps (CFL) and Light Emitting Diode (LED) lamps to replace ILB.  Although tungsten halogen lamps are not as energy-efficient as CFL, they save about 30% of electricity as compared to common types of ILB and are therefore not covered at the present stage in the recommended types of ILB the sale of which should be stopped.

     Regarding the potential health effect of lights emitted from CFL, overseas authorities (including the Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks of the European Commission, Health Canada and the Health Protection Agency of England) have conducted relevant studies and the results showed that ultraviolet levels from CFL with a distance of 30 cm or above are unlikely to pose significant health risk to the general public.  For people who suffer from light sensitive conditions, they have to be cautious in using CFL, and be aware of their body conditions and consult medical professionals if necessary.  Besides, people who suffer from light sensitive conditions have to be aware of their body conditions when exposed to sunlight.

(b) and (c) At present, the disposal of CFL in large quantity must comply with the Waste Disposal (Chemical Waste) (General) Regulation.  The CFL should be properly packed and labelled, and collected by licensed chemical waste collectors for delivery to the Chemical Waste Treatment Centre (CWTC) at Tsing Yi for treatment. Although the amount of CFL disposed of by individual domestic consumers will not reach a level requiring them to be deemed as chemical waste, in order to encourage public participation in recycling, the industry has launched the Fluorescent Lamp Recycling Programme (FLRP) with support from the Environmental Protection Department (EPD) to receive CFL from domestic consumers free of charge. The CFL will then be delivered to the CWTC at Tsing Yi collectively for proper treatment.

     CFL contains materials including metal, glass and a tiny amount of mercury. Fluorescent lamps do not affect the human body and the environment when they are intact. When such lamps break, a small amount of mercury vapour will be released and they should be handled with care. With good ventilation, mercury vapour will be diluted very soon. Therefore, under normal circumstances, the transport and disposal of CFL will not affect the health of the public or the waste disposal staff. The EPD has issued guidelines on disposal of CFL to remind the public to place used fluorescent lamps in the packaging of new lamps before depositing them into collection boxes for recycling, and to take safety measures when handling broken lamps.  These guidelines have been issued to housing estates and public collection points participating in the FLRP, and uploaded onto the EPD website (

Ends/Wednesday, July 17, 2013
Issued at HKT 15:08


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