Production and disposal play an insignificant role
The first result the Empa scientists uncovered was that the proportion of the total environmental effects caused by the production of all the lamps was small. Using the Swiss electrical power mix as a basis, the manufacture of an incandescent bulb, for example, was responsible for just one per cent of its total environmental effect. By comparison, the production of an energy saving lamp at 15 per cent of the total is significantly higher, but still negligible. The reason why energy saving lamps have a larger ecological footprint is because of the electronic circuitry they contain. Using the European power mix (which includes a significant fraction of electricity generated by coal fired power stations) as a basis for calculation leads to much lower values for incandescent bulbs and energy saving lamps of 0.3 per cent and four per cent respectively.
The method of disposal of the lamps at the end of their useful life is also not an important factor in the overall ecobalance calculation. In fact, in the case of energy saving lamps the environmental effects reduce by as much as 15 per cent when they are recycled instead of being incinerated. But even when they are incinerated in a waste disposal facility the much criticized mercury release is quantitatively insignificant. This is because the overwhelming proportion of mercury in the environment is emitted by fossil fuel burning power stations.
The scale of this phenomenon becomes clear by taking a coal-fired power generation plant as an example. Depending on whether it uses brown or anthracite as fuel, a p
|Contact: Roland Hischier|
Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (EMPA)