Thursday, March 03, 2011

Fluorescent Lamp Disposal & Recycling

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How should you dispose of spent  fluorescent lamps?

The problem is that the lamps contain a toxic material: mercury. The average household probably throws them in the trash can.  But large firms with hundreds or thousand of lamps face violating state and federal environmental regulations by simply tossing them in the trash.  If violations are found, government officials issue citations for fines ranging from the tens to the hundreds of thousands of dollars. In August of 2009, the U.S. EPA fined New York City $50,000 for violating environmental regulations, including improper disposal of mercury containing lamps. The city was also required to launch a $300,000 recycling program [Source: Waste & Recycling News].

The mercury contained in every fluorescent lamp is potently toxic; just one gram is capable of polluting a 20 acre lake for an entire year. Once polluted, a mercury tainted environment can contaminate wildlife, including human food sources such as fish. All told, about 650 million mercury containing lamps burn out each year, creating a major potential for mercury contamination if lamps are not recycled [Source: IFMA Daily.].

Recycling fluorescent bulbs is a very good option.

Such programs can also support green marketing initiatives.

Key data points for facility assessment include: facility square footage, fixture and lamp count, types of lamps in use, regulations governing the facility, relamping schedule, and rate of lamp burnout.
Facilities of more than 150,000 square feet require recycling methods capable of handling hundreds of spent bulbs per month. One innovative approach for larger sites is to complete the first step in the process—crushing—before lamps leave the facility. When crushed and stored on-site prior to recycling, the bulbs take up less space than intact lamps, reducing storage requirements by up to 80%. Because no boxing of lamps is needed, facility managers (fms) can also save up to 20 hours of labor per 1,000 lamps.

For facilities of less than 150,000 square feet, fms may wish to consider lamp and ballast recycling containers. This approach allows fms to fill the appropriate container as lamps or ballasts wear out and mail it back when full. All the fm has to do is use the included, prepaid shipping label.

For even simpler recycling, fms may wish to join special programs where a replacement recycling container is automatically shipped for every container returned. This approach can save time and minimize paperwork for fms. (Today's Facility Manager, Daniel Krall, Feb 2011 Issue)

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