Toxic Waste Management for Dummies
How dedicated you should be in order to contribute to a greener planet
Last night while I was absorbed by Planet in Peril, the new CNN documentary examining disturbing changes in our planet, I couldn’t help but glancing at my old replacement lamp of my 52 inch Toshiba DLP TV. The old lamp, carefully packaged in a heavy cardboard box, has been moved from one room to another around my apartment for more than a month.
I couldn’t wait to receive my new replacement lamp after my Toshiba stopped working properly a month ago. When the lamp finally arrived, I noticed a sticker on the cardboard box that said:
Hg-LAMP CONTAINS MERCURY
Manage in Accord with Disposal Laws. See: www.lamprecycle.org or Call: 1-800-631-3811
After putting in the new replacement lamp, I decided to get rid of the old one. But disposing of the old mercury lamp turned out to be a difficult task. A Toshiba customer service representative told me that they could help me only with technical issues. I was supposed to call a different number.
Frustrated, I decided to try the recommended website www.lamprecycle.org. The website wasn’t helpful at all. I had to go through a number of links to other websites in order to find something that looked promising - http://www.epa.gov/bulbrecycling/. I found links to companies that, according to the website, “are not necessarily approved for the SB20/SB50 recycling system,” which I had no idea what it meant. I quit my search because it took a while and I needed to go to work.
A couple of weeks afterwards, I decided to take action again and be a responsible citizen. I spent two hours online to search for actual recyclers of mercury lamps near my location in California. I’m going tomorrow on a 30 min trip to the nearest location I found.
But should an average person have trouble finding the right way to dispose of environmentally hazardous waste? And would most people go though all the trouble: search for recycling facilities and take a trip to the nearest recycling location?
Mercury is a toxic chemical that, according to California’s Department of Toxic Substances Control, can severely affect the nervous system of people. "It can cause tremors, memory loss, mental impairment and many other complications in the nervous system. Mercury is especially dangerous to the developing fetus as it impairs brain development, resulting in lowered intelligence and other brain deficits." Mercury is also toxic to the environment: Bacteria from river and estuary bottom sediments convert mercury into its highly toxic form through a process called "methylation." Methylated mercury is then absorbed by aquatic organisms, "making the fish from those bodies of water dangerous to eat."
Today, when most companies, local and federal governments try to look greener, it is surprising that disposing of hazardous waste can be such a hassle. Here’s an idea for the popular book series, For Dummies: Toxic Waste Management for Dummies.
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