Ever wonder how fluorescent lamps get recycled? The process is simple but it involves several steps. The initial step is collection followed by storage. After storage, the fluorescent lamp is transported to a recycling facility where it goes through a bulb crushing process which is then followed by segregation. Mercury, which is a toxic element found in fluorescent must go through a distillation process where up to 99.99 percent of it is recovered from the fluorescent glass. The mercury that is recovered from the lamp must be verified as pure mercury before it can be resold. The process is explained in detail below.

The Collection Process

Fluorescent lamps contain the toxic element called mercury. Due to the environmental and health risks involved in handling mercury containing light products, the lamps must be properly sealed in a plastic bag or any container that would prevent the lamp from breaking. When the glass breaks, it is when the mercury vapor escapes. Care must be taken to prevent glass breakage.

Broken or used up fluorescent lamps can be collected by a private company that exclusively handles fluorescent lamp storage or it can be dropped off at designated centers or facilities. Before any recycling occurs, these lamps will be stored temporarily in these facilities before they are shipped off to a designated lamp recycling center.

Bulb Crushing Process

The reason why bulbs must be stored in a separate facility is because lamp recycling centers are not as common as one would think. Ordinary recycling centers are not allowed to process fluorescent lights since they don’t have the special equipment to recycle the mercury. Disposal should only be done at a certified lamp recycling center that follows a particular set of standards.

A typical lamp recycling center has an equipment called a bulb crusher. A bulb crusher will crush the glass and collect the mercury vapor. The other components of the fluorescent lamp like the phosphor power, the caps and the filaments will be separated for recycling. The phosphor power is sent to a center that specializes in recycling it. Similarly, the caps which are made of aluminum will be sent to a separate center that specializes in recycling it.

The mercury vapor that has been collected will go through a distillation process. The crushed glass is further screened for any presence of mercury. The mercury collected will also go through the distillation process. The mercury undergoes distillation up to three times to ensure that the mercury is pure. The mercury must be certified as pure before it can be resold. The recycling plants themselves resell the products to private companies.

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