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Mercury Recycling

With more countries passing laws to ban the old type of incandescent lightbulb if favour of the CFL (the mercury containing compact fluroescent lamp), the lightbulb which no one likes, there will be more mercury coming through our waste stream in the future when these are disposed of.

During the lamp recycling process the phosphor powder, which contains the mercury, from the fluorescent tubes is collected in drums.  In order to remove the mercury from the powder you have to use a mercury retort, which is basically a distiller for solids.  It is necessary to heat the powder to a predefined temperature, for a considerable length of time (upto 24 hours). 

Balcan does not manufacture a retort itself, but recommends the Effective Energy Retort from the USA.  This mercury retort beats the older competition hands down is running costs and volume processing.

It is important to understand that investing in a retort ONLY for fluorescent powder is not a commercially sensible option with mercury constituting <1Kg per 1000Kg powder.  Investing in a mercury retort should really only be considered if planning to process other types of mercury waste. 

The alternative mercury retorts on the market, compared to the Effective Energy retort usually collect the powder in special containers and only process smaller quantities.  These systems can usually only process one batch in a 24 hour period compared to Effective Energy which will process two batches of 4 x 45/55gal/205litre drums.  The advantage of being able to run on natural gas makes the cost of ownership and running the best on the market.

The Effective Energy Mercury Retort system can used with all types of mercury waste.

However, the phosphor powder contains approx 12% rare earth metals which now have a significant valueand there are companies who have invested heavily in equipment to recover these.

Do you need a Mercury Retort Distiller?

If you are going to invest in a mercury retort, in order to complete a full recycling loop yourself then Balcan Lamp Recycling suggests you contact Effective Energy Associates LLC in the US, contact rjabele@gmail.com 

We believe that the Effective Energy Ripsys mercury retort is the best on the market.  It has the ability to process 4 x 45gallon drums of powder in one go and is also able to process two batches in a 24 hour period.  Unlike MRT mercury retorts, figures show the Ripsys has a much higher capacity and is much easier to use as well as having consdierable lower running costs.  It also has the ability to process any type of mercury bearing waste in quantity.


The alternative to a mercury retort distiller

There are alternatives to having to invest and operate your own retort for waste lamps.  These retorts are expensive and require close monitoring.  When used purely for lamp powder we do not believe they offer a return on investment, but rather enable the claim that the total lamp is recycled and the mercury collected.  Removing the mercury from the powder does increase the recycling rate and it is the mercury content which is what everyone refers to when requiring lamps to be recycled.  Removing it removes the hazard.

However, alternatives take recycling rates to a new level.  Specialist companies, e.g. Rhodia in France and Osram in Germany, have invested is developing a system to recover the rare earth metal content from the phosphor powder and the first stage is to also remove the mercury.  This accounts for approximately 12% of the volume.  These rare earths have a significant value and are in short supply as the Chinese have banned the export of them, thus increaing a supply shortage.

With the rare earth metals having a significant value it may now be possible to reduce or eliminate the phosphor powder disposal because companies are wanting it.  We consider the cost can be reduced between 50-100% depending on the outlet.