Traditional, incandescent light bulbs were phased out in the United States due, in part, to their low efficiency. One type of bulb that was designed to take their place is the compact fluorescent lamp or CFL. These bulbs can fit into a standard light fixture and use a folded glass tube that is attached to an electronic ballast that powers the lamp. Although these are updated technologies, the same issues still exist that a lot of people don’t consider: you can’t throw these things in the trash!
Recycling CFLs. CFLs are typically rated to have a service life between 6,000 and 15,000 hours, which can be as much as 20 times longer than their incandescent predecessors. Unfortunately, like all fluorescent light-bulbs, CFLs contain 1-5 mg of mercury vapor inside the tubes. Mercury is a metal that is liquid at room temperature and can be toxic in low doses. Obviously, this is something you cannot just toss in the trash and have it end up in landfills.
The EPA recommends the recycling of CFLs, and other mercury-containing bulbs, along with other hazardous wastes. This can prevent the release of their mercury into the environment, which can happen easily if the bulbs get broken. It can also allow for the reuse of the glass, metals, and electronic components. Disposal may also be prohibited, in some areas, by EPA regulations. Some waste collection agencies allow you to drop of CFLs for no, or a small, fee. Many retailers that sell the bulbs also offer recycling services. Also, some manufacturers offer mail-back recycling services.
Environmental Management standards. In 1996, the International Organization for Standardization developed a group of environmental management standards, which are referred to as the ISO 14000 series. To date, there are more than 300,000 ISO 14001 standards worldwide. These Environmental Management System (EMS) standards are intended to be a generic guide that can be molded to suit a large variety of organizations.
How They Work. The standards are designed after the PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Act) cycle. The first step is to establish the necessary objectives and processes. Next, the processes should be implemented. Once they’re in place, you should periodically measure performance to ensure that the objectives are being met. Finally, you need to take steps to improve performance in any areas that are not meeting the established objectives. The idea is for the program to be constantly improving its processes to adequately deal with any environmental challenges that arise.
Their Benefits. The main goal of these standards was to provide the framework through which companies can reduce their impact on the environment. Standard conformity can provide both performance and economic benefits through regulatory conformance. Also, because these standards are internationally recognized, conformity can be beneficial for companies that operate in multiple locations worldwide. It can deliver a competitive, and public perception, edge against other businesses that do not conform. This can result in a positive impact on the financial well-being of the company and provide access to new business partners and a broader customer base.
Assessment of Conformity. There are four ways in which standard conformity can be assessed. First, a company can take responsibility for its own assessment. Another option is to have the assessment done by someone on the outside, such as a customer, who has an interest in the business. The third option is for a business to perform its own assessment, but have the results verified by an outside entity and, finally, that external organization can perform both the assessment and verification of conformity.
Environmental Management Systems. It is important to have an Environmental Management System (EMS) in place to ensure your company’s programs are being handled in a comprehensive, orderly, deliberate and well-documented manner. A key part of EMS development is ISO 14001 training. But it doesn’t end there. A thorough plan must be implemented, including having measures in place to ensure adherence to that plan.
The bottom line here is that ISO 14001 adherence requires full training, planning, and implementation to fully take advantage of these environmental standards. Don’t forget to include a plan for the recycling of your company’s CFLs.