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January 28, 2013

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Legislators seek law on recycling of lightbulbs

While Shanghai goes all out to expand the use of green and energy-saving technology, there is an urgent need for a law to secure the safe disposal of millions of potentially poisonous used green lightbulbs, legislators said yesterday.

The first official proposal at the annual session of the Shanghai People's Congress, signed by 12 legislators, calls for immediate action to stipulate a law to monitor and improve the disposal of old bulbs because they contain mercury.

Each bulb contains 0.5 milligrams of poisonous mercury - enough to contaminate 180 tons of water, the legislators said. This could happen if a bulb breaks and the mercury leaks into the water system.

In 2009 and 2010, more than 27 million energy-efficient lightbulbs were fitted in Shanghai homes at prices subsidized by the government in a bid to promote green energy use.

But many of the lightbulbs were now nearing the end of their useful life, the legislators said.

"The current situation is that few professional companies are willing to recycle the worn-out lightbulbs for lack of legal authorization and production guidelines while the government neighborhood offices don't know how to dispose of them safely," the proposal states.

Exposure to mercury can damage the nervous system, while an intake of 2.5 grams of the metal can be fatal.

The legislators also advised the government to offer incentives for residents to swap used bulbs for new ones as this would put the old ones in the hands of watchdogs and thus reduce the risks of mercury leaking into the environment.

The law should specify the recycling process and punishments for recycling companies that fail to dispose of bulbs safely, the proposal states.


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