Very often people want to recycle but aren't sure how. This area of untapped recycling potential is a business opportunity that many companies are jumping in to fill. For example, what are you supposed to do with fluorescent light bulbs? CFLs are widely encouraged as a replacement for incandescent light-bulbs but, they do contain small amounts of mercury and we all know about the dangers of mercury poisoning.
Things like batteries and CFLs should not be thrown away with household hazardous waste (HHW) but many consumers don't know what they should be doing instead. This is what UK company reVend hopes to change - they are the first company in the world that specializes in supplying "reverse vending machine systems, installation, material recovery and recycling through their experienced management team in RV technology, recycling and waste management."
What all this means is very simple: when you put your CFL into a big slot in the vending machine, a video camera fitted inside identifies the bulb so it can be sorted, and then you receive a voucher for a free cup of coffee. Swapping an old CFL for a cup of coffee sounds like a good deal to me. In addition to recycling, reVend also provides regular maintenance services for their machines. The machine also comes with an extractor filter to capture any mercury vapour in case of accidental breakage of a light bulb.
reVend claims that there are are over 100,000 Reverse Vending Recycling machines installed throughout the world. The company also says that in addition to the mercury, virtually all the components in a CFL can be reused. The metal bits are sold for scrap, the glass is recycled and the phosphor powder is recycled as well.
Companies like Home Depot have CFL recycling programs where customers can put used CFLs into drop-off boxes. With the gradual and planned phasing out of incandescent light-bulbs, the use of CFLs will only increase thereby exacerbating the problem of mercury pollution. A single CFL has only a small quantity of mercury but in bulk, they pose a problem.
Recycling companies like reVend play an important role in changing public perception towards recycling. Everybody knows what to do with paper and plastic, but when it comes to hard-to-recycle items like CFLs, most people need is a little direction and companies like these can bridge the gap towards safer recycling.
Image Credit: reVend