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Consultation paper: Fluorescent lamp mercury reductions

30 Sep 2016 09:00 AAEST
28 Oct 2016 17:00 AAEDT

Consultation overview

The Department of the Environment and Energy seeks feedback from stakeholders on the proposal to reduce allowed mercury levels in compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs)and linear fluorescent lamps (LFLs) to meet international obligations and align with levels set by major markets.

Regulatory amendments to reduce mercury levels are proposed for Australia only under the Greenhouse and Energy Minimum Standards (GEMS) Act 2012 Act. New Zealand amendments will be managed separately by the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA).

To implement this change, replacement GEMS determinations for compact fluorescent lamps and linear fluorescent lamps have been drafted, which will override mercury levels referred in the Australian/New Zealand Standards. Exposure draft versions are included in Attachment A and Attachment B of the Consultation paper. Changes from the current determinations are highlighted and the signing page is removed. The attachments are exposure drafts only and should not be taken as representing the final version of requirements.

Key document

Consultation outcomes

Consultation on the proposal to reduce allowed mercury levels in compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) and linear fluorescent lamps (LFLs) in Australia, in order to meet the requirement of the Minamata Mercury Convention and align with levels set by major markets, closed on 28 October 2016.

The E3 Program is proceeding with the proposed reductions.

Proposal summary

CFLs less than 30W

The maximum mercury content of 5 mg is reduced to 2.5 mg to align with levels set in the European Union (EU).

CFLs 30W and over

The maximum mercury content of 5 mg in CFLs would remain unchanged (consistent with EU mandatory maximum levels).

Linear fluorescent lamps (triphosphor <60W)

The maximum mercury content of 15 mg is decreased to meet the Minamata Convention on Mercury specified maximum level of 5 mg for triphosphor linear fluorescent lamps <60W.

Industry feedback

Stakeholder feedback confirmed the proposed changes in the consultation paper would be low impact. No substantive concerns were raised.

The feedback indicated there is overall support for reducing mercury levels to those proposed, although some stakeholders noted that the general market trend is moving away from fluorescent lamps, which may limit the proposals’ impact.

While we acknowledge that the market is moving to LED, we note that:

  • the market share of CFLs in households currently remains at 30 per cent.
  • survey responses from the 2016 Residential Lighting Survey and Audit indicated mercury content is still an important consideration for householders when purchasing lamps.
  • by reducing maximum mercury in CFLs to 2.5 mg, Australia would be aligning with levels set by other major markets – not go below them.
  • reducing maximum mercury limits may encourage other countries to do the same.

In regards to linear fluorescent lamps, Australia signed the Minamata Convention in October 2013 and is now considering ratifying the Convention to become a full Party to it. This would legally bind Australia to the Convention’s obligations and would therefore require Australia adopt the 5 mg mercury limits for the relevant linear fluorescent lamps.

Stakeholder feedback recommended that the maximum levels for linear fluorescent lamps should not be reduced to EU voluntary levels of 3 mg due to the requirements of certain long-life and specialty lamps available on the Australian market. This has been acknowledged, and as a result, E3 will proceed with the proposed 5 mg maximum level.

Next steps

The E3 Program is proceeding with the proposed reductions to allowed mercury levels in CFL and linear fluorescent lamps in Australia, in order to meet the requirement of the Minamata Mercury Convention and align with levels set by major markets.

Replacement determinations are expected to be in place the first quarter of 2017, six months before the requirements become mandatory, to allow time for industry to comply with the amendments.

Once the changes are in force, existing stock that doesn’t comply with proposed mercury limits would be grandfathered (until their registration has ceased) and could continue to be sold until exhausted. However, no supply of stock (exceeding the maximum limits) imported after the new determination takes effect would be permitted. Products where the registration has expired and requires re-registering would need to be registered in compliance with new mercury limits. New registrations for existing registered products, already within the proposed limits, would not be required. As the majority of products (approximately 80 per cent) are already within proposed limits, this would not impact the majority of suppliers.