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Health concerns over crushing fluorescent lamps

Businesses may have to apply for an environmental permit to hire a crusher to deal with mercury-containing fluorescent lighting tubes, under Defra proposals.

Currently, businesses can use on-site mobile crushers for mercury lamps, under an exemption to regulations, to make the material easier to transport – without an environmental permit.

The crushers are designed to capture any mercury released. This procedure is typically carried out during office block refurbishments.

Defra wants to remove the exemption because of health concerns.

A joint consultation with Wales said: “This is to ensure that the regulatory requirements and levels of compliance checking for mobile lamp crushing are sufficient for human health and environmental protection, provide a level playing field for businesses involved in lamp recycling, and are in line with and provide legal clarity on minimum European requirements.”

Comments have to reach Defra or the Welsh Government by 8 February.

Recolight, the WEEE lighting compliance scheme, said both mobile crushing and the transport of whole lamps were acceptable alternatives.

Chief executive Nigel Harvey said: “The choice of one or the other is often determined by specific site requirements. For example, where a site has limited access for larger vehicles, mobile crushing may be preferable.

“Conversely, for larger volume sites, whole lamp collection can often be more appropriate.

“Many also consider mobile crushing to have a lower carbon footprint than whole lamp collection, given the significant volume reduction of the crushed waste.

“The Defra consultation appears to be quite measured, presenting three reasonable alternatives for the regulation of mobile crushing. Recolight will be submitting a comprehensive response.”

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