Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Why is it Important to Recycle Used Fluorescent Lamps?

According to EPA estimates, only 20% to 25% of used fluorescent lamps are recycled, These lamps are commonly sent to a recycler in bulk or in pre-paid shipping recycling boxes. The 75% to 80% of fluorescent lamps that are not recycled usually end up in dumpsters or trash containers and, ultimately, in landfills. One study indicates dumpsters that contain broken fluorescent lamps “strongly and persistently” emit mercury.(1) Another study on mercury release from broken fluorescent lamps found that between 17% to 40% of the mercury in broken low-mercury fluorescent lamps is released to the air during the two-week period after breakage.(2) Of this mercury, one-third of the release takes place during the first eight hours following breakage, potentially exposing personnel in the vicinity to unsafe levels of mercury vapor. Using this estimated release rate and an estimated 620 million lamps discarded annually in the United States, broken used fluorescent lamps release approximately two to four tons of mercury each year into the environment.

Used fluorescent lamps need to be properly handled during shipping and recycling. Safe packaging reduces the threat of mercury vapor emitted from broken lamps.

1. Lindberg, S.E.; Owens, J. PaMSWaD (Pathways of Mercury in Solid Waste Disposal); Lockheed Martin Energy Research Corporation (LMER). 1999, 6.
2. Aucott, Michael, Michael McLinden and Michael Winka. “Release of Mercury from Broken Fluorescent Bulbs.” Journal of the Air & Waste Management Association, 53 (2003), 143-51.

Brad Buscher
Chairman and CEO
VaporLok Products LLC

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