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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Got Mercury? Put it in our landfills, says HRM.

Posted on Wed, Jun 10, 2009 at 1:30 PM

So here I am, packing for a move from the Sambro loop to Bedford. Like many people, I have some old junk to get rid of, some of which is not the most environmentally friendly stuff either – which is probably why I haven't succeeded in getting rid of it yet.

Our garages use the long fluorescent tube light bulbs we all know and love to hate. I've been collecting up the dead bulbs to take for proper recycling "some day".

Some Day has now arrived. I know that these bulbs contain mercury – not a lot, but enough that it takes several acres, by some US State standards, to "safely" contain it in a landfill. And given that I've spent the past three years getting IV and other treatments for metal poisoning, I'm not too keen to throw this stuff out with the trash for it to get crushed up at the end of my driveway and then trailed through town being inhaled by the poor unsuspecting guy hanging off the back of the garbage truck.

After having no luck online, I gave the RRFB a call to ask what to do with these things. Their answer: wrap them in cardboard and put them at the curb as garbage. Almost horrified, and completely unsatisfied that this is really our official policy, I asked if there was anything else I could do, and I was directed to call HRM's recycling hotline.

I gave the HRM hotline a call and waited a while for someone to pick up. Posing the same question to the woman who answered, I was told that the proper thing to do with these toxic tubes was to wrap them in cardboard, label them as "glass", and put them at the curb as garbage.

"You're serious. This is our official policy? These contain mercury," I said. "Yeah, but not a lot" was the response. It doesn't take a genius to realize that "not a lot" multiplied by the population of HRM equals "a lot". This stuff doesn't break down or go away.

With our society blindly driving headlong towards an all-fluorescent bulb future, HRM has frighteningly dropped the ball when it comes to dealing with the very real environmental and health consequences of disposing of these toxic products.

Get a clue, HRM. If products like these are available and even being pushed by your own marketing initiatives, you have a moral and, I would argue, a legal obligation to know how to handle the toxic aftermath.

I guess I'll be packaging up these old dead bulbs and moving them with me to my new place until HRM gets their act together and starts receiving them at the hazardous materials drop-off for mercury recovery and recycling.

---Andrew G., Toxic Avenger

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