LIGHT BULB COLLECTION AND RECYCLING
By Wong Ee Lynn
WHY ARE LIGHT BULBS CONSIDERED HAZARDOUS WASTE?
Fluorescent light bulbs, although energy-efficient, contain a very small amount of mercury sealed within the glass. Compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) and other fluorescent light bulbs are categorized as hazardous waste, and if discarded in the trash, may break and cause mercury to be released into the environment.
Once in the environment, mercury can be converted to an organic form that accumulates in living organisms and contaminates the food chain. To prevent this, light bulbs should be taken to a recycler before they break. Recyclers can recover the mercury and other components such as glass, phosphor and aluminium for reuse.
If your local authority offers no other disposal options except your household garbage, place the light bulb(s) in a plastic bag and seal it before putting it in the trash. However, if your municipality incinerates its garbage, contact your local authority instead for other household hazardous waste collection options. Never send a fluorescent light bulb or tube or any other mercury-containing product to an incinerator.
WHERE IN THE KLANG VALLEY CAN I SEND LIGHT BULBS FOR RECYCLING?
For all of us living in the Klang Valley, Ikea (at No.2 Jalan PJU 7/2, Mutiara Damansara, 47800 Petaling Jaya) provides a used lightbulb collection service at the Lower Ground Floor, right outside the checkout counters, to the left of the wrapping counter. Just deposit your used light bulbs in the bins provided. If the bulb is broken, put it in a can or jar with a lid before putting it in the bin. Ikea engages the services of a waste management contractor that will crush all used bulbs using a 'bulb eater' with activated carbon filters that capture and neutralise the mercury vapours released from the bulbs during the crushing process. The crushed bulbs and filters are then disposed of in a secure landfill in Bukit Nenas, Seremban.
We at the Malaysian Nature Society thank Ikea for this socially and environmnetally responsible initiative.
WHAT CAN WE DO TO IMPROVE LIGHT BULB COLLECTION AND RECYCLING SERVICES?
As environmentalists, we can try to lobby the government, the electronics and lighting industry and electronics retailers to:
- Reduce the mercury content in fluorescent lighting products;
- Start a ‘manufacturer take-back’ policy that requires manufacturers to accept and recycle their own products at the end of the products’ useful lives; and
- Set up more collection points for hazardous household waste such as light bulbs and batteries.