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April 2007
SHORT REPORT:
After The Burn Out

If your foodservice operations are using fluorescent lighting of any kind—including the newest compact fluorescent lamps or CFLs—you probably know that your staffers should be recycling burned out lamps and bulbs. Across the country fluorescents are facing tougher restrictions on their disposal, and for good reason: They all contain toxic mercury.

Fortunately, when fluorescent lamps are recycled, mercury, phosphor powder, glass, metal and other materials are all safely sorted out, and nearly all of the contents of a burned out bulb can then be recovered and used for other purposes. And perhaps more important, the mercury in fluorescents doesn’t have a chance to contaminate landfills and waterways.

So what’s the best way to get your lamps to a recycling center? Depends on how many lamps you’re using. If you’re dealing with low-volume lamp generation and convenience is key, check out EasyPak from Air Cycle Corp. of Broadview , Ill.

The service, accessible at www.lamprecycling.com, allows lamps to be shipped in secure boxes, via FedEx Ground, to licensed recycling facilities. The program also provides online access to shipment tracking and replacement box ordering. Orders can also be set up for new boxes to ship automatically as full ones are received at the recycling centers.

You can choose from boxes holding 4’ straight lamps, 4’ straight and U-shaped lamps, and 8’ straight lamps, with per-box fees starting at $59.95. The fee covers the container, shipping and recycling charges. Other EasyPak containers can recycle batteries, ballast and thermostats.

Mark Funkhouser, custodial services manager with the Chumash Casino Resort in Santa Ynez Valley, Calif., implemented EasyPak recycling when working with a local waste hauler became a problem.

“[Working with the hauler] required a lot of attention,” Funkhouser says. “We had to pack the bulbs in different kinds of bins and place them wherever the truck pickup was going to be. We also were never sure of the outside contactor’s schedule, so we really didn’t know when he was going to come.”

Now, Funkhouser says his facility’s engineers simply put spent lamps in one box that later is shipped. “When the box gets full, we just close up the top, stick a label on it, ship it and our part is done.”

Veolia Environmental Services, Lombard , Ill. , offers a similar service for lamp recycling that’s also based on special containers shipped via FedEx Ground. Veolia’s program, called RecyclePak, includes the option of 5-gal. pre-paid pails that can accommodate smaller quantities of lamp ballasts. Veolia’s per-box fees start at $69; see the Web site http://veoliaes-ts.com/Home for details.

And still another company, Bethlehem Lamp Recycling of Bethlehem, Pa., can provide 4’ mini packs starting at $18.95 for those who only need to recycle eight T12s or 14 T8s per box. Method is the same; you receive and fill the container, FedEx Ground takes it away. For more, see the Web site: www.bethlehemlamprecycling.com.

For high-volume lamp recycling, Air Cycle also offers the Bulb Eater, an OSHA- and EPA-compliant machine that can crush more than 1,000 fluorescent lamps, depending on lamp size, and pack them into a 55-gal. drum. The process is fully enclosed and filtered, so that the glass, aluminum, and harmful vapors are contained. When full, the drums are picked up and transported to an EPA-approved lamp recycling facility where the contents are separated, treated and ultimately reused. More information on this recycling method can be found at www.aircycle.com.

What To Do: Other Ideas

If your operations can handle their own fluorescent lamp recycling, check with your municipalities or counties for the nearest hazardous waste collection site. Bulbs and lamps should be carefully transported—preferably in their original box—to avoid breakage that could allow mercury to leak. If a lamp breaks before it leaves one of your stores, all pieces should be collected in a sealed container and taken to the collection site.

If your municipalities don’t offer a disposal method for fluorescent lamps and bulbs, there are other resources you can investigate. Check with local hardware stores or retailers that sell fluorescents; they may take them back or know where to recycle them.

Internet resources can help, too. For example, at www.lamprecycle.org you can find a list of recyclers in the United States and Canada . Click on “Lamp Recyclers” for a company list.

Another site, www.earth911.org, lets you search for recycling options based on your zip code. Or you can click on “Mercury Information” on the home page for details on fluorescent lamp handling.

California Introduces Lamp Legislation

Keeping up with its rep as a leader in environmental legislation, the state of California has proposed legislation that would require manufacturers to reduce mercury and lead in their lamps, and create recycling programs.

Introduced earlier this year, the California Lighting Efficiency and Toxics Reduction Act would require schedules for reducing the maximum levels of mercury, per lumen hour, and lead in general purpose lights that are sold in the state. Further, if the Act is passed, manufacturers of such lights would need to provide an approved place for collection and recycling by July 1, 2009.

And while we wait for this and other possible legislative moves in other parts of the country, many manufacturers have been developing low-mercury lamps, and a no-mercury fluorescent may be on the horizon, say experts.

Freelancer Bruce Boyers contributed to this story.

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