Have you ever wondered what to do with your old Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFL’s)  The Institute of Waste Management of Southern Africa (IWMSA) encourages all South Africans to make use of proper disposal facilities to dispose of CFL’s as they contain small quantities of mercury as vapour inside the glass tubing and are therefore classified as hazardous waste.

The use of CFL’s as opposed to incandescent light bulbs is very much on the increase, especially as we all attempt to conserve energy and minimise our electricity bills.  Stan Jewaskiewitz, President of IWMSA says “Along with this fairly new and more energy efficient product, comes a new set of waste management challenges.”  He continues, “The IWMSA supports the City of Cape Town’s initiative to create an awareness of the proper disposal of CFLs.  The City wants people to be aware that CFL’s contain small amounts of mercury, which is poisonous, and as such should not be thrown away with one’s regular domestic waste, NOR should they be included in recycling bins or bags.  Thoughtlessly throwing CFL’s out with everyday garbage poses a serious hazardous waste problem at landfills and waste incinerators, where the mercury from these lamps could be released if they are broken, resulting in air and water pollution.”

Where can you take your used CFL’s?  Fortunately many citizens have easy access to drop-off points at their local PicknPay and Woolworths retail outlets, where specifically marked bins are situated for this purpose.  CFL’s need to be kept separate from other refuse, safely stored, preferably in their original packaging, and correctly disposed of at a drop-off/collection point or approved hazardous waste facility.   It is VERY IMPORTANT not to break or damage CFL’s at all.  As an indication of how careful one should be, in the recycling process, CFL’s need to be crushed in an especially designed machine that uses negative pressure ventilation and a mercury-absorbing filter to contain mercury vapor.

Another everyday item to remember is the household battery which is also accepted by PicknPay in the same manner – a marked bin from where they are collected for safe disposal and recycling.  Batteries should most certainly not be thrown out with your domestic refuse since they contain equally hazardous elements.  It is essential that everyone takes responsibility for disposing of these relatively small domestic items in the proper way.

In the event of breakage of a CFL, special care must be taken to clean up and contain mercury and glass shards after which they should be contained in a plastic bag for correct disposal.  If transporting a quantity of these lamps, as with any other hazardous waste materials, please contact an approved hazardous waste management company for advice.

Eskom has developed a comprehensive brochure regarding CFL’s, including correct disposal and advice on cleaning up broken fluorescent lamps.  This brochure can be downloaded from their website or viewed via the IWMSA’s website, www.iwmsa.co.za.

The IWMSA provides education and training for its members, you can network and exchange information with like-minded individuals, and even have your voice heard in the formulation of legislation.

The IWMSA is a professional, multi-disciplinary organisation with voluntary membership established to promote the science and practice of waste management and is a non-profit organisation. For more information, contact the IWMSA visit: www.iwmsa.co.za