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Effort made to increase universal waste recycling

As a way to reduce universal waste, Waste Management Inc. and Waste Management of Hawai‘i has recently launched an online service — ThinkGreenFromHome.com — that allows consumers to recycle compact fluorescent lamps and batteries.

Universal waste is a type of hazardous waste that includes batteries, pesticides and mercury-containing equipment, such as fluorescent light bulbs.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, more than 670 million mercury-containing bulbs are discarded every year.

Recycling the CFLs and batteries are the main services provided by ThinkGreenFromHome.com

The ability to recycle household electronics such as televisions and computers will soon be part of the program.

“Waste Management is providing solutions to help kama‘aina responsibly handle their household universal waste,” Joe Whalen, general manager for Waste Management of Hawai‘i, said in a statement. “Communities across Hawai‘i are becoming increasingly aware of the 2012 deadline for the use of CFLs and the need to properly dispose of CFLs, batteries and other electronic waste.”

In an energy bill signed by President Bush last December, inefficient incandescent light bulbs are to begin a phase-out process in 2012.

To recycle the CFLs, prepaid-postage kits can be ordered online and delivered to the customer’s home. The kits can be used for the storage of discarded batteries and CFLs until ready to be recycled. Once the kit is full, it can be sent from the customer’s home or the U.S. Post Office.

According to Russell Nanod, community affairs manager for Waste Management of Hawai‘i, the kit can hold approximately 14 CFLs at a time.

“You won’t be disposing of the bulbs one at a time,” Nanod said. “It allows the homeowners to use the bag until filled.”

Even if the bulbs end up broken, they still can be shipped, Nanod added.

The special bags in the recycle kits incorporate a technology that reduces the risk of airborne exposure and environmental contamination from any bulbs that may break or be broken during storage and shipping.

“When the bulbs are sent in, it will go to one of our Waste Management plants in Minnesota,” Nanod said. “The bulbs will be dissembled and we will separate the glass, metal and mercury.”

The glass, metal and mercury will be sent to third-party vendors who will recycle the components, Nanod said.

Along with Waste Management, The Home Depot has also recently launched a CFL recycling program.

The national, in-store recycling program is available at all 1,973 Home Depot locations.

In the Home Depot program, customers can bring any expired, unbroken CFL bulbs to the returns counter.

The bulbs will then be packaged and transported to a facility to be recycled.

“The CFL recycling program is another example of how The Home Depot is empowering customers to help make a difference in their own homes, and have less of an impact on the environment,” Ron Jarvis, a senior vice president with the EPA, said in a statement.

“With more than 75 percent of households located within 10 miles of a Home Depot store, this program is the first national solution to providing Americans with a convenient way to recycle CFLs.”

With the annual household hazardous waste collection last weekend, Allison Fraley, solid waste program development coordinator of Kaua‘i County, said approximately 200 CFLs were collected, compared to the 40 collected last year.

“We really didn’t get more people at the event, just more CFLs,” Fraley said. “It makes me think people are starting to use them (CFLs) more.”

Fraley also thinks because this was the second year CFLs were collected during the hazardous waste collection, resident were more inclined to recycle the CFLs.

Nanod said the CFL program is a way to help people start small in the green movement.

“Here’s something you can do to be more environmentally friendly,” Nanod said.

“We are providing the opportunity for individuals to participate — they can make a difference.”

For more information on CFL recycling, visit ThinkGreenFromHome.com or www.homedepot.com/ecooptions

• Rachel Gehrlein, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 225) or rgehrlein@kauaipubco.com.

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