Fluorescent tube waste has an important place in the circular economy

Fluorescent tube waste has an important place in the circular economy

2021 / 03 / 26

Compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) and fluorescent tubes are found everywhere – from households, factories, roads, schools, hospitals, stadiums, hotels and vehicles, to torches and chicken hatcheries – the list is endless.

Yet they are often overlooked as a potential source of hazardous waste.

Millions of lamps are imported into South Africa annually to satisfy this demand for light in domestic, public and industrial applications, and eventually these lamps will need to be disposed of.

This must be done responsibly, and these lamps should never be crushed in improper crushers or thrown into general rubbish as most contain harmful heavy metals such as mercury.

Each linear fluorescent tube contains between 15 and 20mg of mercury, while compact fluorescent lamps contain up to 8mg of mercury. If not removed properly, these heavy metals will pollute soil, water and air and the vapour, when inhaled or released, can be harmful to human health and the environment.

Precautions must always be taken to ensure that there is no direct exposure to the released contents.

Fluorescent tubes must not be stored on their end pieces as they are weakest when stored vertically, and easily broken. Rather, used lamps that are accumulated for recycling should be stored in bins that minimise lamp breakage, while broken lamps must be stored in sealed drums. Any release to the environment from broken lamps must be contained immediately and handled properly.

There are potential serious legal consequences if laws regarding the safe disposal of waste are not adhered to.

It is not widely understood that fluorescent tubes can be 100% recycled, which removes mercury from the environment, while all the components are recovered and recycled. Materials such as glass, plastic and steel can be re-used in similar or other applications, but they must be properly cleaned to ensure there is no mercury residue. Mercury is used in electronic applications and can be re-used.

This also reduces volumes of waste to landfill and EnviroServ has the capacity and expertise to handle this for customers.

We partner with our customers, enabling you to decide on and implement the best waste management solution for your circumstances.

We always assess our customer waste streams with a zero-to-landfill approach. Our aim is to find beneficial uses for every waste stream that we manage and create something of value, boosting the economy by creating jobs.

The solutions we offer are practical and have no negative impact on the environment. EnviroServ is concerned with customers’ reputations and will, through responsible waste management assist you in complying with legislation.

Our employees are educated on the proper handling of lamps and emergency procedures in case of breaks or spills, and we offer training to customers on proper lamp handling and storage upon request.

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