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Light Bulbs

Volume 698: debated on Monday 28 January 2008

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they intend to take action to inform all households and businesses in what way they should safely dispose of used fluorescent light bulbs and how they should deal with breakages, bearing in mind the toxic substances contained in those commodities. [HL1170]

The Government have worked with our delivery partners—the Energy Saving Trust, Carbon Trust and Environment Agency—to ensure that households and businesses can access clear information on energy- efficient light bulbs, their benefits, as well as how to dispose of them safely when they reach the end of their lives.

I would like to take this opportunity to reassure the House that while energy-efficient bulbs do contain a small amount of mercury (enough to cover the tip of a ball point pen) it cannot escape from an intact bulb. Even if a bulb should break, the risks from such a small amount of mercury are minimal.

However, it is sensible for householders to take reasonable precautions in cleaning up and disposing of a broken bulb, such as ventilating the room for 15 minutes. A broken bulb can be taken to a local civic amenity site. Local authorities are under an obligation to provide such sites for the disposal of household waste.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they have agreed with suppliers of energy-saving light bulbs that a warning should be displayed on packaging and the light bulbs themselves that they contain toxic substances, instructions for their safe disposal and advice as to how breakages should be safely dealt with. [HL1171]

The Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Regulations 2006 require that the producers of energy-saving light bulbs—compact fluorescent lights (CFLs)—include on the item or packaging the crossed out wheelie bin symbol. This indicates that the item should not be disposed of in an ordinary household waste bin. The retailers of WEEE have an obligation to advise consumers on where they can safely dispose of them. There is no requirement within the WEEE regulations for advice on disposal to be included on packaging or on the item itself.