The Retrofit Companies Blog

Which TRC topics were most popular in 2016?

In 2016, The Retrofit Companies shared over 40 posts and original articles on this blog. Today, we share the topics that were most popular for you to consider whether you are trying to learn more about LED lighting myths or to better understand mercury waste. Keep reading for links to the most popular TRC blog posts of 2016.

We outline the top 4 Myths about LED Lighting in this popular blog post. Learn why all LED products are not created equal, and find out what factors in 2017 make this technology more approachable and affordable than ever.

 

What is the problem with mercury waste? Is it dangerous? How is it processed and recycled? Get these answers and more by reading "Understanding Mercury Waste." 

 

We share 9 Signs You Should Invest in LED Lighting including factors such as the availability of rebates, monthly utility bills that seem too high, and the need to remain nimble in changing business environments. If any of this sounds familiar to you, you may benefit from this helpful article!

 

This video shows exactly what happens in two instances when linear LED T8 lamps are incorrectly installed. Maybe you are considering these products for your efficiency measures in 2017, but we recommend watching this video and learning more about linear LED T8 replacements.

 

In 2016, TRC was given an Energy Efficiency Partner Award from Xcel Energy. Recipients are given the award "for their outstanding efforts to help customers save energy and reduce their environmental impact." You can see some TRC project case studies on the Xcel Energy website.

 

If you need lighting or recycling service consultations, our staff is ready to help. Contact TRC any time!

Consult a Lighting Pro

 

Consult our haz waste team

Mercury Spills & How To Safely Handle Mercury Waste

In our previous blog article about mercury, we explained the different types of mercury waste, as well as the sources, dangers and recycling processes for it. Today, we will discuss proper handling of packaged mercury wastes for transportation to recycling facilities, and most importantly we have included some resources and references for you to consult if a mercury spill clean up is ever required at your facility. As always, please consult a trained hazardous waste professional in the event of contamination.

Proper Handling & Transportation of Mercury Wastes

Because of the dangers mercury waste poses to the environment and the health of others, the Department of Transportation has regulated how it must be transported. The main focus when transporting mercury is containment. There are some packaging and handling guidelines in effect to help prevent spills. Any mercury waste, whether it is debris or devices, must be packaged in UN/DOT approved container in order to transport. UN containers are made to withstand pressure in case of impacts, such as a motor vehicle accident. They also have secure lids which further prevents the possibility of a spill. When purchasing containers for Universal and Hazardous Wastes, be sure to ask your vendor if the containers are UN/DOT approved, and look for the UN symbol. TRC and other recyclers often have the appropriate packaging for sale, or they can tell you which vendors would have the type of packaging you require.

UN DOT APPROVED PACKAGING

The DOT also requires that any mercury debris must have a hazardous waste manifest in order to track and account of in case of a spill. This paperwork is used in tracking mercury waste from ‘cradle to grave,’ meaning that the amount of material sent from the generator can be tracked through any of the transporters and onto the end facility where it is processed and recycled. This ensures that waste is not lost, spilled, mistreated or handled irresponsibly, and allows for businesses to accurately report where their wastes are going. Responsible recycling companies will be able to provide this paperwork and help guide you when filling it out prior to your waste being picked up and transported to the processor.

Cleaning Up Mercury Spills: What Never to Do After a Mercury Spill 

    • Never use a vacuum cleaner to clean up mercury. The vacuum will put mercury into the air and increase exposure.
    • Never use a broom to clean up mercury. It will break the mercury into smaller droplets and spread them.
    • Never pour mercury down a drain. It may lodge in the plumbing and cause future problems during plumbing repairs. If discharged, it can cause pollution of the septic tank or sewage treatment plant.
    • Never wash clothing or other items that have come in direct contact with mercury in a washing machine, because mercury may contaminate the machine and/or pollute sewage. Clothing that has come into direct contact with mercury should be discarded. By "direct contact," we mean that mercury was (or has been) spilled directly on the clothing, for example, if you break a mercury thermometer and some of elemental mercury beads came in contact with your clothing.
    • Never walk around if your shoes might be contaminated with mercury. Contaminated clothing can also spread mercury around.

For this list and comprehensive instructions on handling Mercury Spills, visit the EPA web page at http://www.epa.gov/hg/spills/, and call a professional waste handling company to help guide you, or for clean-up services.

What about Broken Fluorescent Lamps?

Fluorescent and HID (High Intensity Discharge) lamps also contain some amount of mercury and require special care when broken. In CFL lamps, the mercury is found in the tubes, along with the white phosphor powder, which when electrically charged will produce visible light. So, any time the tube is compromised, mercury escaping is a possibility. A compact fluorescent lamp contains about 1/500 of the mercury found in a mercury thermometer,  and since we know any amount of mercury can be a potential hazard, prompt and fastidious clean-up is necessary. Followed of course, by appropriate disposal and recycling. 

HID lamps, which are often found in areas with difficult maintenance access, like building exteriors, parking lots, and warehouses with high ceilings, can contain 20-100 milligrams of mercury. (For reference, a thermometer contains about 500 milligrams of mercury.) The mercury in HID lamps is contained in a small capsule inside the larger lamp globe. If the outer globe is broken, store the entire lamp in double plastic, inside a rigid container to prevent further breakage. If the capsule is broken and mercury has escaped, follow appropriate cleanup and containment response for mercury spills.

This HID lamp chart from US Department of Energy shows the location of the capsule containing mercury  inside of the main lamp globe:

HID LAMP DIAGRAM

More Mercury Info

For additional information on recycling mercury devices and debris, including mercury-containing lamps, you are welcome to contact our recycling representatives any time. Also, check out our previous article Understanding Mercury Waste & Mercury Recycling Process

 

READ ALSO // Fluorescent Lamp Recycling: Small amounts of mercury, big hazard.

Understanding Mercury Waste & Mercury Recycling Process

What's the problem with Mercury Waste?

The use of Mercury in common products, like thermometers, medicines, cosmetics production and laboratory devices, has significantly declined as the dangers of mercury were discovered. Still, that did not prevent us from finding practical uses in modern technology. Today, mercury is used primarily for the manufacture of industrial chemicals or for electrical and electronic applications, and it can be found in everything from fluorescent lamps to thermostats. And while we have found safer uses and have been able to reduce the amount of mercury required to create a viable product, as is the case with fluorescent lamps, that does not mean it is any less dangerous. The harmful effects of mercury are still present and it must be handled, stored, transported and recycled carefully.

Why is Mercury Dangerous?

Mercury is most harmful through contact and ingestion. It is safe to say that physically consuming elemental mercury is a very rare occurrence. But how often do you think about whether the things you are eating have been exposed to mercury waste? This can occur when mercury contaminates our lakes, streams, and other water supplies. Through a microbial process, the spilled mercury is transformed into an organic form of mercury called methylmercury. The methylmercury is then transferred to fish and other wildlife that we could eventually consume. In a process called bio-accumulation, the small amounts of mercury in tiny organisms travels up the food chain and accumulates in larger and larger animals like fish and birds.  Damage to the lungs, kidneys, and nervous system can be caused by methylmercury. Exposure can also affect the neurological development in children. Containment is the best prevention from all of these dangers. Always avoid direct contact, inhalation, and the spillage of mercury waste into the environment.

Mercury Devices vs. Mercury Debris

What is the difference? Isn’t it all recycled the same way?

Distinguishing the different types of mercury waste is the first step towards recycling it. Mercury devices are manufactured items containing elemental mercury that is not exposed. Thermostats, barometers, pressure gauges, and mercury switches are all examples of some common mercury devices. As long as the integrity of the device is not compromised these household items are relatively easy to recycle. This means, the mercury is sealed within the intact device and has no means of leaking.

As soon as the elemental mercury is exposed from a device, such as a crack or leak that mercury could escape from, it is considered mercury debris. Raw mercury is the most harmful state of mercury and must be treated carefully when handled. Always try to avoid spilling elemental mercury from a device. Not only is it more harmful, the disposal and recycling process is more difficult and often it is more expensive. Sources of mercury debris include: dental amalgam, soil with mercury spilled onto it, any items used in a mercury spill kit such as cardboard, gloves, towels and actual broken mercury devices. This can include any contaminated item.

Mercury Recycling Process

With the help of technology, recycling mercury has never been easier and more efficient. Recyclers have engineered processes that ensure 99% of mercury is extracted safely. The mercury collected is used again in new products.

Whether you have fluorescent lamps or thermostats, make sure you seek out a responsible solution when you need to dispose of any article or material that contains mercury.  Find a certified recycler who can ensure proper disposal and prevent hazardous mercury to contaminate the environment. TRC Partner, Veolia ES, outlines the basics of their mercury recycling process for lamps and mercury items.

More Mercury Info

For additional information on recycling mercury devices and debris, including mercury-containing lamps, you are welcome to contact our recycling representatives any time. Also, stay tuned for our upcoming blog on Proper Mercury Handling, spill clean-up safety and how to manage broken lamps.

 Hazardous Waste inventory help

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