The EU has an opportunity to avoid 310 Terawatt-hours of electricity use and 2.88 tonnes of mercury in the environment
The EU regulates mercury through the Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive (RoHS), however this regulation exempts certain widely used mercury containing fluorescent light bulbs. The exemptions were included in the RoHS Directive because of limited availability of mercury-free alternatives to fluorescent lighting at the time the Directive was drafted in the early 2000s. However, technology advancements over the last decade have established light emitting diode (LED) retrofit bulbs as a cost-effective, mercury-free alternative to fluorescent.
In 2021, CLASP built on the 2020 Öko-Institut analysis and calculated that the longer RoHS exemptions are kept in place, the larger the cost for the European people and businesses. The net savings lost by the European Union as a whole because product exemptions are delayed by two years (to June 2023) are € 12.2 billion – which equates to €16.8 million Euro in savings being thrown away each day. Similarly, additional mercury pollution from fluorescent bulbs will cause long-term harmful effects on peoples’ health and the environment.
The European Commission must accelerate its policy process to remove RoHS exemptions to mercury-based lighting as soon as possible to stop causing unnecessary harm to people’s health, delaying the European economic recovery, while contaminating the environment. Any further delay in eliminating exemptions on fluorescent lighting is preventing the European Union from advancing a resilient and sustainable economic development. As a result, the European Commission should remove the RoHS exemption to mercury-based lighting now.
Terawatt-hours (TWh) of electricity use avoided by phasing-out fluorescent lamps in 2021
Tonnes of mercury pollution removed from the environment
The amount Europe is losing in cost savings with a two year of regulatory delay
The evidence supports eliminating these exemptions for bulbs that have easy-to-install, cost-effective replacements. Furthermore, removing toxic substances from the market and reducing greenhouse gas emissions align with the objectives of the European Green Deal that was announced by the Commission on 11 December 2019.Marie Baton, European Program Lead, CLASP