Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Keeping CFL bulbs out of our landfills

Firm only option for industry to dispose safely of used lamps

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New lamp-bulb technology that can reduce energy consumption by as much as 75 per cent sounds like a winner.

But the one catch with so-called compact fluorescent lamps (CFL) and other fluorescents is they contain a lot of mercury, and because of that, the province is taking steps to prevent these lights from ending up in landfills by 2014.

Through the Manitoba government's participation in Product Care, residential users of these types of lamps can dispose of their spent bulbs at numerous locations, including hardware stores across the province, free of charge. (Product Care is a not-for-profit industry-sponsored association that manages product stewardship programs for household hazardous and special waste on behalf of its provincial members across Canada.)

But commercial, institutional and industrial users of CFL bulbs in Manitoba are going to have to get to know Environmental Disposal Solutions (EDS).

Sheldon Koslovsky, one of three partners in this new venture, said his company has developed patented technology that can break the lamps down to their four core components -- mercury, phosphorus, glass and metal from the end caps -- and eliminate any trace of mercury from the environment.

So far, it is the only recycling option available for energy-efficient light-bulb disposal for non-residential users in Manitoba.

"I think if you ask many businesses now, you'll find that these bulbs are being disposed by throwing them in the bin out back," Koslovsky said.

But with more incentives in place to encourage more use of the energy-efficient lamps, there will be an increasing number of the burned-out lamps in need of proper disposal.

Koslovsky and his partners have worked for about four years developing the technology in preparation for the demand.

"After the lamps are through our system, the air is cleaner than the ambient air you breathe," Koslovsky said. "We have data that show the disposal leaves zero parts per million of mercury in the environment."

A mercury processor in Pennsylvania will buy the mercury captured in EDS's carbon filters. There are rare-earth companies that will take the phosphorus -- and even some lamp manufacturers who will buy it and re-use in production -- and scrap dealers will take the glass and metal from the end caps.

EDS charges "pennies per foot" to do the recycling.

Ed Paul, the maintenance supervisor at St. Paul's High School, is shipping the school's burned-out lamps to EDS.

"I used to smash up the lamps and send them to the landfill, but that's not good for the environment," he said. "Everyone has to do their part."

Koslovsky said there are a number of large users such as StandardAero and the Winnipeg Convention Centre that are prepared to use EDS.

Jordan Best, a senior program coordinator with Product Care based at its Vancouver head office, said his organization handles smaller volumes from consumers.

"Industry has to develop its own recycling program," he said.

Commercial and industrial users account for a much larger volume of lamps and Koslovsky is hoping a solid market will materialize.

EDS's 20-by-seven-metre equipment costs about $750,000 and the company hopes it will be able to license or franchise the technology across the country.

"We have interested parties out there now," Koslovsky said.

Best said there are some commercial recyclers in British Columbia but the Manitoba company believes there will be plenty of unmet demand.

martin.cash@freepress.mb.ca


SOME fact about compact fluorescent lighting:

Compact fluorescents are a cost-effective choice to replace incandescent fixtures. Many compact fluorescents produce a light similar to that of an incandescent bulb. They are available with a screw-in base (one-piece integral ballast) or as a hard-wired option (two-piece remote ballast).

Available in a range of wattages and optional multi-lamp circuitry to match a wide range of needs;

Energy-saving electronic circuitry eliminates the hum and flicker of ordinary fluorescent lights;

Last about 10 times longer than incandescents and can save up to 75 per cent in energy costs;

Ideal for illuminating hallways, corridors, and hard-to-reach areas with operating cycles of three hours or more;

Lamps on for at least 10 hours per start will last longer, resulting in labour savings.

Broken lamps, tubes, or bulbs must be treated as contaminated waste material. Store broken lamps in a sealable, non-metal container marked "Broken mercury-containing lamps" and contact an approved waste contractor for proper disposal.

-- source: Manitoba Hydro

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 30, 2013 B9

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