Even though mercury is considered one of the most dangerous environmental pollutants, its use has been allowed in certain light sources, such as T8 and T5 fluorescent lamps. However, this is set to change next year.
In the European Union, the use of mercury in products has been phased out gradually since 2006, and it is restricted by the RoHS Directive and the Ecodesign Directive. By exemptions for the RoHS Directive, the European Commission has allowed the use of restricted substances, such as mercury, for certain applications. In general lighting, this has covered, for example, T8 and T5 fluorescent tubes, compact fluorescent lamps and halogen lamps, the use of which has been justified by poor availability of energy-efficient mercury-free alternatives.
Today, T8 and T5 fluorescent tubes are easily replaced by energy-efficient and environmentally friendly LED light sources, and therefore, the Commission has recently amended the RoHS Directive to remove most of the exemptions for light sources.
In practice, the change to the directive means that many light sources still in common use will be phased out as early as next year. T8 and T5 fluorescent lamps will be off the market starting from 24 August 2023.
The amendments were published in the Official Journal of the European Union on 24 February 2022.
EU Ecodesign Directive (Ecodesign Directive, 2009/125/EC) establishes a framework under which manufacturers of energy-using products are obliged to reduce the energy consumption and other negative environmental impacts occurring throughout the product life cycle. The latest regulation from 1 September 2021, includes, for example, requirements related to the circular economy. The stricter requirements for energy efficiency have led to some products no longer meeting the requirements and therefore having to be phased out.
RoHS Directive (Restriction of Hazardous Substances) aims to prevent the risks posed to human health and the environment related to the management of electronic and electrical waste. It does this by restricting the use of certain hazardous substances in EEE that can be substituted by safer alternatives. These restricted substances include heavy metals, flame retardants or plasticizers. The sale and importation into the European Union of electrical and electronic equipment that does not comply with the RoHS Directive is prohibited.