Ask the Expert

Trash Disposal

WHY CAN’T I THROW MY LAMPS IN THE TRASH?

Lamps contain mercury and in most cases are considered hazardous. The EPA regulates the management of spent lamps. Most states do not allow hazardous lamps to be disposed in solid waste landfills.

WHY IS MERCURY A CONCERN?

Mercury is a metallic element that can accumulate in living tissue. In sufficient concentrations, mercury may cause adverse health effects. Sources of mercury in the environment from human activity include coal-burning power plants, batteries, and fluorescent and HID lamps. Small amounts of mercury are a necessary component in fluorescent and HID lamps, but when a lamp is broken, crushed or dispensed in a landfill or incinerator, mercury may be released to the air, surface water or groundwater. It is a good policy to keep the mercury out of the solid waste stream by recycling.

HOW DO LAMPS GET RECYCLED?

Whether through a bulk pick-up service, prepaid mail-in containers (UN certified for transit), or drums of crushed lamps using a lamp-crushing machine. The waste will arrive at a certified recycling facility where lamps are fed into a specialized machine for recycling lamps. The entire process is fully automatic and incorporated in a container, thereby preventing mercury from being released into the environment. The phosphor powder is separated in different steps from the glass and metal by-products. Clean glass and aluminum end-caps are separated and stored for reuse. The mercury bearing powder is collected in distiller barrels beneath the cyclone and the self-cleansing dust filters. The powder is then retorted to drive out the mercury. At the end of the process the glass, metal end-caps, powder and mercury can all be reused. Once the materials have been fully processed by the recycling facility, an official certificate of recycling will be produced for your record keeping.

This article originally appeared in the February 2016 issue of School Planning & Management.

About the Author

Michael Tuymer is project manager for Air Cycle Corporation. He can be reached at Mike@aircycle.com or 800/909-9709.

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