Know options for lamp recycling

  October 31, 2012

Today’s tip is to choose your best solution for recycling fluorescent lamps. For all the energy fluorescent lights save, they come with a little string attached: They release mercury into the environment each time they break. So what are the best options for fluorescent lamp disposal?

Though the federal government classifies used lamps as hazardous waste, the rules governing spent lamps are regulated at the state level. Because the laws governing lamp disposal vary across the country, know the law in the areas where you have facilities.

Although disposal options vary by state, industry and environmental experts agree that the best choice is to recycle fluorescent lamps. The Association of Lighting and Mercury Recyclers has created a listing of state-by-state information at its Web site, which also offers summary information about EPA regulations for fluorescent lamps.

But facility managers should make sure that their lamps are low-mercury. "We encourage recycling, but we know that all lamps are not going to get recycled," says Steve Goldmacher, director of corporate communications for Philips Lighting Co. "And if you start out with the lowest mercury to begin with, you are less likely to have a problem later on."

The most common recycling option is a pick-up service. The used lamps are packed into boxes or fiber drums, and a pick-up is scheduled with a recycling service. While this method is relatively inexpensive, it requires facility executives to store the spent lamps, which they can do for up to a year without a permit.

A second method is to use pre-paid recycling containers. Facility managers purchase the containers, pack up spent lamps, and ship them to a recycler. While this is generally a more expensive choice, it eliminates the need for storage space, as a facility can ship used lamps immediately.

A facility may also have the option of crushing lamps with a controlled emissions lamp crushing system before passing them on to a recycling company. Crushing lamps can reduce their volume, but it’s important to understand that the crushers are regulated at the state level. In some jurisdictions they cannot be used, because some crushers have been shown to release mercury.


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