Why care about The National Strategy for Safe and Environmentally Sound Disposal of Lamps Containing Mercury Act?
The metal will be separated and recycled by metal recycling facilities.
Mercury Containing Lamps
Fluorescent lamps contain toxic mercury in varying amounts. Although they are considered to be more energy efficient than incandescent bulbs, care must be taken during disposal.
Compact Fluorescent Bulbs (CFLs) have gained in popularity
For commercial purposes, fluorescent lamps have been popular for some time- however compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs) have gained popularity among residential consumers. With the Federal ban on 40, 60, 75 and 100 watt incandescent bulbs in 2014- CFL bulbs use is on the rise. A Statistics Canada Report in 2014 showed that “three-quarters of total households reported using one or more compact fluorescent light.”
It must also be noted that Linear Fluorescent Lamps (popular among commercial users) contain large amounts of mercury. According to David Hall, President of DAN-X Recycling, “every four foot fluorescent light bulb has 22 milligrams of mercury. 22 milligrams of mercury can contaminate 220,000 litres of water.”
Q: Why should we care?
A: An integral component of fluorescent lamp and CFL technology is mercury. We know that mercury is toxic and causes health problems like birth defects, rashes or death. This impact on human and environmental health demands preventative measures and solutions. Mercury has the ability to migrate between different media- water, air and soil.
The CCME Council of Ministers in 2001 reported that “waste lamps, whether broken or intact, contribute about 1150 kg/yr. of mercury to landfill each year bound to the phosphor in the glass.”
Mercury contamination has the potential to undergo long-range transport. E.g. Mercury deposited in Eastern Canada has the potential to re-deposit in the Arctic or other remote areas. As Canadians we have a national and global responsibility prevent toxic mercury from entering our landfills.
Once the glass from fluorescent bulbs is processed, it is tumbled to make the edges safe. The glass is then recycled.
How much harm can a regular 13 watt residential light bulb cause?
Equivalent to a 60 watt incandescent, these bulbs contain between 0.17 and 3.6mg of toxic mercury. Some have been known to contact as much as 5mg. This makes the everyday light bulb a large contributor to mercury in our waterways and land.
Safe disposal and recycling facilities for mercury containing lamps exist.
Typical CFLs contain 75% glass, <0.015% mercury, 0.2-2% lead oxide, 0-2% aluminum oxide, 0.5-3% phosphor powder and miscellaneous compounds. Almost all of this can be recycled! DAN-X Recycling Ltd in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia recycles almost every component of mercury containing lightbulbs.
In simple terms, how/what does DAN-X recycle?
- Glass is separated and reused in the production of new bulbs by manufacturers.
- Metal is melted down and reused by metal recycling facilities.
- Phosphorous powder containing mercury is processed and then recycled.
Successful models exist. Some provinces have begun working on CFL end of life strategies while other provinces lag behind. Most notably, British Columbia through the Light Recycle outreach program in 2013 saw 74% of CFL bulbs returned/captured. (Compared to 2010 level of 10% capture rate)
Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment Report: Canada-wide Standard for Mercury-containing Lamps (2001) http://www.ccme.ca/files/Resources/air/mercury/merc_lamp_standard_e.pdf
Statistics Canada Uptake and disposal of compact fluorescent lights by Canadian households 2011 http://www.statcan.gc.ca/daily-quotidien/140319/dq140319c-eng.htm
Crowell, M., 2014. CFL Recycling Report: Recommendations for the Collection and Recycling of Spent Residential Compact Fluorescent Bulbs in Nova Scotia. RRFB funded student research report.