Unlike regular items, like glass bottles and aluminium cans, there are some items that need to be recycled in very specific ways in order to not damage the environment. Fluorescent lights are one such problem material due to the mercury they contain.
Many will recognise mercury as a liquid metal that is used in thermometers due to its reaction to different temperatures. It should also be known that mercury is an extremely toxic compound, and can have devastating effects on organs in the human body such as the brain, kidney and lungs. Because of this toxicity, it is crucial that materials containing mercury are disposed of correctly so that mercury is not released into the environment. This release is usually in the form of methylmercury, which seeps into water and soil, poisoning plant and animal life for decades.
Use of mercury today
Despite the risks of mercury, its uniqueness means that it is still used in a variety of applications, one of which is fluorescent lighting. The amount of mercury is entirely dependent on the age and manufacturer of fluorescent lights. Older fluorescent lamps can contain as much as 46mg of mercury, while newer lamps contain much less than this – some contemporary fluorescent lamps are sold in “low mercury” versions, which contain around 3 or 4 mg of mercury.
Recycling can occur in a number of ways. Often sulphur is combined with mercury to produce mercury sulphide, a compound that prevents release of vapour and is insoluble in water, effectively eliminating two of the most significant issues associated with mercury in the environment.
Managing your fluorescent tubes and lamps
In order to best manage the mercury content in fluorescent lighting, fluorescent tube and lamp recycling is employed to effectively contain all of the separate elements of fluorescent tubes and lamps. The process we employ at Toxfree involves the separation of aluminium, glass, phosphor powder, and the mercury itself, which are then recycled.
This all occurs at Toxfree’s state of the art facility and processing centre in St Mary’s in New South Wales. We firmly believe that there is a need to tackle mercury recycling in Australia to ensure that our environment and those living in it will have healthy, safe futures, and are constantly pushing for awareness to reflect this. If you have any questions related to mercury recycling or our services, get in touch with us at Toxfree today.