Signify outlines mercury-free lighting transition recommendations (MAGAZINE)

April 19, 2022
Signify CEO ERIC RONDOLAT encourages policymakers to avoid regional workarounds that may complicate a transition away from producing and selling mercury-containing fluorescent lamps.

Just prior to the Fourth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Minamata Convention on Mercury (COP-4; held Mar. 21–25, 2022), Signify released a letter providing a holistic view of its recommended approach to the global phase-out of mercury in conventional, general-purpose lighting. This column is based on the guidance offered in our original letter*, and we look forward to collaborative industry contributions to the COP-4 guidance.

As a leader in lighting, Signify subscribes to the goals of the Minamata Convention and intends to actively support countries in their transition from conventional lighting to smart, LED-based lighting. In that vein, we suggest country-specific import and sales bans guided by thorough processes per country, and one single, global manufacturing ban, to avoid the chance of adverse effects brought by the Minamata agreement on the environment.

In the context of the convention and its objectives, Signify would like to offer the following for consideration.

Having reduced mercury content in linear fluorescent lamps (LFLs) from 20 to 2 mg over the years, Signify is equally committed to next steps to bring emissions from fluorescent lighting for general lighting purposes to zero. We have successfully deployed hundreds of millions of LED replacements for LFLs and continue to inform customers on their ease of installation and potential user experience.

Still, these deployments have brought insights into region-specific challenges. In several countries, to abandon LFLs, users will need to rewire or replace significant amounts of existing fixtures. Consumers and owners of lighting infrastructure need to plan for these adjustments, which at country level may require additional installer training to ensure the safety and quality of LED replacements. The Global Lighting Association has made similar points in a position paper capturing the market insights of trade associations across the globe.

The financial, human, and supply chain resources associated with a mercury-free transition require logistical and financial preparations, which may include:

  • Mapping out the landscape of installed LFLs (volumes/types) in the country
  • Identifying technical challenges and boundary conditions for LED replacements
  • Identifying viable LED alternatives
  • Assessing transition costs, including installation
  • Determining timelines and the need for government stimulation plans
  • Setting up communication, education, and training programs
  • Implementing phase-out policies accompanied with enforcement methods

Signify recommends Minamata Convention participants thoroughly investigate market situations and implement the phase-out of LFLs for general lighting purposes by executing a well-defined process towards regulation and supportive measures for end users. We offer to assist countries in accelerating the transition by actively supporting such implementation plans in partnership with multilateral organizations.

Of further concern is that a manufacturing and export ban only has the desired effect when the last manufacturing country ends its manufacturing. For the current treaty, implementation dates among countries are more than five years apart. Plans that were initiated in 2013 are still waiting for final realization only after 2025. Different time schedules, partly caused by long exemption periods, bring along the risk that manufacturing moves from countries with more stringent environmental rules to countries having less strict rules, or from manufacturing sites having technical capabilities to limit the use of mercury to others that lack these capabilities, resulting in lamps that could contain more mercury than best-in-class lamps today.

A poorly orchestrated manufacturing ban may lead to unnecessary additional amounts of mercury being released into the environment. Signify therefore calls upon the Minamata Convention to work towards one single date on which manufacturing will be phased out globally by well-enforced regulations.

Our recommendations to the Minamata Convention reflect our unequivocal drive towards serving the world with mercury-free lighting and represent a global company’s perspective on the optimal strategy.

Get to know our expert

ERIC RONDOLAT has held the position of CEO and chairman of the board of management at Signify since the company was listed on the Euronext Amsterdam stock exchange in May 2016. He was executive vice president and CEO for lighting at Philips from April 2012 to May 2016. Rondolat holds an engineering degree from the Institut National Polytechnique de Grenoble and a master’s degree in international marketing from Ecole Supérieure de Commerce de Grenoble, both in France.

*Edited with permission from the original March 15, 2022 Signify letter by Eric Rondolat.

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