INFO : Frequently Asked Questions

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WHAT IS A CFL?

CFL stands for compact fluorescent lamp, and it is a small fluorescent lighting lamp that uses 75% less energy than a traditional incandescent lamp, and can be screwed into a regular light socket.

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WHAT ARE HIGH INTENSITY DISCHARGE (HID) LAMPS?

High intensity discharge (HID) lamps contain varying amounts of mercury depending on the type of HID lamp. HIDs contain higher levels of mercury than fluorescent tubes or CFLs. The three most commonly used types of HID lamps are mercury vapour, metal halide, and high pressure sodium. HID lamps are typically used when high levels of light are required over large areas, and when energy efficiency and/or long life are desired. These areas include gymnasiums, large public areas, warehouses, outdoor activity areas, roadways, parking lots, and pathways. HID lamps, especially metal halide, are increasingly used in small retail and residential areas.

 

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WHY PEOPLE SHOULD USE CFL's?

Switching from incandescent or halogen lamps to CFLs is an effective, accessible change every South African can make right now to reduce energy use at home and to help prevent greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global climate change. Lighting accounts for close to 20 percent of the average home’s electricity bill. Changing to high quality CFLs cost little upfront and provides a quick return on investment.

 

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ARE CFL's HARMFUL?

CFLs contain a very small amount of mercury sealed within the glass tubing – an average of 5 milligrams per CFL. Mercury is an essential component of CFLs and is what allows the lamp to be an efficient light source. No mercury is released and is safe when the lamp is intact or in use. Many manufacturers have taken significant steps to reduce the amount of mercury in their fluorescent lighting products. If the CFL or fluorescent lamp is not handled correctly and breaks, follow the clean-up recommendations.

WHAT IS MERCURY VAPOUR?

When a fluorescent lamp breaks, phosphorous powder and the invisible mercury vapour are released, and continue to dissipate at normal room temperature. This vapour, when inhaled or released, can be potentially harmful to human health and the environment, and precautions must be taken to ensure that you do not have direct exposure to the released contents.

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Vapour being released from a breaking lamp.

WHAT PRECAUTIONS SHOULD I TAKE WHEN USING CFL's IN MY HOME OR OFFICE?

CFLs are made mainly of glass and can break if dropped or roughly handled. Be careful when removing the lamp from its packaging, installing it or replacing it. Always unscrew and screw in the lamp by its base, and not the glass. Never forcefully twist the CFL into the light socket. If a CFL breaks in your home follow the clean-up recommendations.precaution_cfl

HOW SHOULD I CLEAN UP A BROKEN FLUORESCENT LIGHTING LAMP OR CFL?

Before Clean-up: Vent the Room

    1. Open a window and leave the room for 15 minutes or more. DO NOT vacuum the spill, or never use a broom to clean up the broken lamp.
    2. Shut off the central forced-air heating/air conditioning system, if you have one.

Clean-Up Steps for Hard Surfaces

    1. Put on rubber or latex gloves. Carefully scoop up glass fragments and powder using stiff paper or cardboard and place them in a glass jar with metal lid (such as a canning jar) or in a sealed plastic bag.
    2. Use sticky tape, such as duct tape, to pick up any remaining small glass fragments and powder.
    3. Wipe the area clean with damp paper towels or disposable wet wipes and place them in the glass jar or plastic bag.

Clean-up Steps for Carpeting or Rug

  1. Carefully pick up glass fragments and place them in a glass jar with metal lid (such as a canning jar) or in a sealed plastic bag.
  2. Use sticky tape, such as duct tape, to pick up any remaining small glass fragments and powder.
  3. Vacuuming of the carpet can commence after all visible materials are removed.

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WHAT DO I DO WITH THE BROKEN CFL OR FLUORESCENT TUBE AFTER CLEANING IT UP OR WHEN IT IS REPLACED AFTER IT STOPS WORKING?
It is recommended to place a cleaned up, broken CFL into a sealed plastic bag. Spent lamps should be taken to a consumer collection point such as Pick n Pay. When you purchase a new CFL, the old spent CFL can be placed in the bins provided at the consumer collection points. These points are for small amounts of CFLs, Halogens, etc. and are intended for household consumers only. recycling Larger volumes that are generated by SMME’s and larger industries, are to be managed as per the legislated waste management practices. Contact Reclite for more information waste_collection
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO RECYCLE CFL's, FLUORESCENT TUBES AND ALL OTHER LIGHTING LAMPS?

CFLs, fluorescent tubes and all other lighting lamps that are thrown into general rubbish end up in landfill which is not acceptable, as it ends up in the environment.

All lamps that are recycled by Reclite are processed and cleaned, and the recovered fractions are safe for re-use in other applications.

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WHAT ARE THE BASIC HEALTH AND SAFETY PROCEDURES FOR HANDLING AND STORAGE OF LAMPS FOR RECYCLING?

Used lamps that are accumulated for recycling should be stored in bins that minimise lamp breakage. Crushed lamps must be stored in sealed drums.

Any release to the environment from broken lamps must be contained immediately and handled properly. Reclite can assist with the clean-up of large spills.

Employees are educated on the proper handling of lamps and emergency procedures in case of breaks or spills. Training is provided by Reclite to customers’ staff on proper lamp handling and storage upon request.

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WHAT ARE THE DANGERS OF DRUM-TOP CRUSHERS AND WHY IS THIS NOT GOOD ENVIRONMENTAL PRACTICE?

Drum-top crushers are sometimes used in an uncontrolled process to crush fluorescent tubes and CFL’s prior to recycling or disposal to landfill. Crushing does not recover any mercury. Crushing is not recycling.

These drum-top crushers are mostly used in small confined areas or spaces or outside where the drum is exposed to the elements.

Dangerous levels of mercury vapour in air can be generated during operation of a drum-top crusher. This can lead to the potential of unhealthy and unsafe exposure to the operator and contamination to the building and/or environment.

The operator needs to wear special PPE to use the crusher which is expensive, and in most cases incorrect PPE or none is worn. The operator needs to handle the lamps one by one, which poses a high health and safety risk in the case of breakages.

The exposure limits are exceeded during drum changes. In the case of the machine jamming, the glass particles are ejected from the feed tube, which is a high health, safety and environmental risk. Sealing difficulties have been encountered when attaching the device to the drum top.

There is build-up of residual mercury on the inside of the machines, which when handled for maintenance or exchanges, is a further high risk to health, safety and environment. The filter elements will be hazardous and maintenance on these machines has to be done as if handling hazardous waste (precautionary principle), which is costly.

If a drum-top crusher is used to crush lamps regularly above a threshold, a waste management licence is required from the Department of Environmental Affairs which follows a full Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) process, which is site specific.

According to a study conducted by the US EPA In 2005, where four drum-top crushers were studied from different manufacturers, the findings were, that even a perfectly operating drum-top crusher emits mercury vapour at concentrations that are typically in excess of 10 times higher than public health exposure criteria. There is great risk of unexpectedly exposing people to unsafe levels of mercury vapour in a building where crushing occurs. In addition, crushing can cause long term contamination of a building, making clean-up difficult and expensive.

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WHY IS IT RECOMMENDED TO SEND WHOLE UNCRUSHED LAMPS TO RECLITE ?

Reclite’s operation is a controlled and safe process with no risk for human exposure, building or environmental contamination.

Sending whole uncrushed lamps for recycling at Reclite’s facility is likely to be cheaper than owning and operating a drum-top crusher, as the need for maintenance, operator and PPE costs are eliminated.

The additional potential costs of unhealthy, unsafe exposure and building contamination, is also eliminated.

The lamps are handled once only, when the lamps are placed in Reclite’s safe storage bins.
Thereafter the lamps are processed directly and safely in the plant.

 

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