Every year, 30 million mercury-filled lamps head to the dumps in Ontario – that’s enough mercury to contaminate Lake Erie to the point where fish are unsafe for consumption. But a new pilot program, the first of its kind in North America, is aiming to keep mercury out of the water and landfill systems with the first comprehensive fluorescent lamp recycling program.
By 2012, incandescent light bulbs will be banned and consumers will have to figure out a way to compact their fluorescents. Take Back the Light, funded in part by the provincial government, recycles out the mercury by moving the lamps on a conveyor to a negative pressure containment area. The lamps are then broken down to capture glass, aluminum, brass, and phosphor-mercury powder. The powder is then heated to separate the mercury from the phosphor and a triple distillation process cleans up the mercury making it eligible for reuse. A Pennsylvania company will collect the mercury that has been allowed to cool to liquid form in one ton containers where it will again undergo another distillation and then be resold.
Next, Ontario hopes to begin compacting fluorescents as part of its next phase of its hazardous waste recycling program. But that’s at least a year away. By 2012, the province plans to contribute 1 million lights a year from its 3,500 provincial buildings. By that year, the recycling program hopes to be recycling 10 million fluorescents.
Ontario isn't the only one doing its part to clean up the mess of these lights. According to the New York Times, Home Depot will take back old compact fluorescents in all 1,973 of its stores, becoming the U.S.'s most widespread recycling program for the bulbs.
Via Ontario Recycling Council of Ontario and The Star