Really, Every Day is Earth Day.
In honor of Earth Day, we're updating and reposting a very important article: how to properly dispose of rechargeable batteries, solar and low-voltage lights and both solar and electric fountains.
These and other products contain components that are considered to be "household hazardous waste" and require special care when their useful days are over.
You’ve been good to the environment (and your pocketbook) by choosing solar. The question: how to stay green when disposing of solar lights and their components?
And low-voltage lights, electric and solar pumps and pest control products? They also need special care after they've outlived their usefulness.
Nothing lasts forever, not even the best quality solar or electric garden products. And when their useful lifespan is over, many components must be recycled or disposed of properly.
And long before the lights themselves have passed their brightest days, odds are that you’ll have changed batteries at least once, maybe twice for quality products.
Note: when buying batteries, try to buy the best ones you can afford. Better ones do last far longer and work better and eventually pay for themselves and create less waste. The good news: technology for newer batteries continues to evolve rapidly and that means most prices continue to go down over time and that different types and sizes of batteries are easier to find.
When disposing of outdated or non-working solar lights, rechargeable batteries, and many garden products, they must be handled as "household hazardous waste."
The same is true for many other outdoor home and garden products including but not limited to paints, left over pesticide and pesticide containers, some fertilizers, water treatments for ponds and pools and numerous other items.
Electrical lights and pumps, as well as transformers, also often need to be handled as hazardous waste or at the very minimum as consumer electronics.
Here's some tips on how to make sure your dispose of products that don't harm the environment.
Recycle All Parts You Can
Plastic and metal housing can usually be separated from other compo nets and put into your home recycle bin, or in a bin at your local dump. If your area doesn't collect recyclables, call your building department or planning board: either may govern water resource or wetland regulations or know who in your city or town does govern wetlands.
Sooner or later all improperly disposed of waste (from lead acid batteries to medications) ends up in the water supply. Your local authorities should be able to direct you to a place that recycles electronics.
Think about it: how many cell phones, laptops, tablets and solar lights you've gone through in the past five years. Today, there are many program that focus on recyclable parts of electronics and to properly dispose of the parts that can't be recycled.
Clean Water is Everyone's Right and Responsibility.
Dispose of Rechargeable Batteries Properly
All solar lights use rechargeable batteries of one form or another. Nickel Cadmium (NiCad), Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH), and Lithium Ion (Li-Ion) are the most common, although some solar lights use rechargeable lead batteries and Lithium Phosphate lights.
While some chemicals are more dangerous than others, all batteries must be disposed of as hazardous materials. (It’s not only the responsible thing to do, in many areas it’s also the law.)
|All Batteries and Most Light Bulbs are Household Hazardous Waste
Image From pixgood.com
Treat batteries the same as you should treat household chemicals such as paint thinners, paint, unused pesticides/herbicides, and even medications.
This means they should not be put into your regular trash. Instead, store them up for your municipality’s annual or semi-annual hazardous material pick-up of drop-off days.
This is when all hazardous materials are put into a separate, marked container for special handling by collectors, or that you bring them to the local dump yourself.
A growing trend among many landfills is to have on-site facilities capable properly handling hazardous materials up and running on a regular basis.
Proper Disposal of Light Bulbs
Well made solar lights use LEDs and unless the bulbs break, odds are some other part of the light (like the "eye" that senses when it turns dark and turns the light on) will go long before the LEDs.
When LEDs do fail, it's usually do to a short-circuit in the light or a very hard bang likely will damage other major components.
With some exceptions (like solar street lights), replacing LEDs is just not a viable option. While older solar lights sometimes used CFL (compact florescent light bulbs) or halogen bulbs in solar lights, it's rare today. The efficiency of LEDs make them the perfect for solar lights. While CFLs aren't used very much in outdoor lights (most don't work well outdoors),so most electric lights use halogen or LEDs.
But, halogens are commonly used in low-voltage lights, as well as electric spotlights and floodlights. We don't like halogens because they use less energy than incandescents but still a lot. More importantly, halogens run very hot and can be dangerous to plants, garden and pond equipment, animals and people.
When you throw any light with a bulb into regular trash, this is what you could be adding to the water supply.
- Many LEDs contain lead and mercury and must be disposed of as hazardous waste.
- Compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) contain mercury
- Halogen bulbs use many components that are hazardous, the most common being tungsten. Since there are many different types of halogen bulbs, other contaminants or combinations of contaminants are a strong possibility.
Please dispose of all solar light bulbs as household hazardous waste. Using them is good for the environment (and your wallet), so make sure you continue the practice after they wear out!
The good news: LEDs last so long and are so much smaller than other bulb types that far less overall waste is created.
For example, the average lifespan of an LED bulb is 50,000 hours. So the very small amount of hazardous materials in energy-efficient light bulbs mean they create far less waste and are much safer for the environment than traditional incandescent bulbs.
Clean Water is Everyone's Right and Responsibility.
Disposing of the Solar Light Itself
If you do nothing else, remove the batteries and any bulbs and dispose of them as hazardous household waste before throwing the rest of the lamp in the trash. Yes, you may be able to get away with wrapping them in newspaper and putting them in the trash but there are better ways to dispose of used solar lights and almost all electronic gadgets.
You might have to do a bit of homework, but the waste disposal industry continually makes it easier to dispose of them safely, including recycling them. Copper and steel wires as well as other components are worth money.
Over the past decade, landfills have seen an ever-increasing amount of discarded PC and laptop computers, cell and smart phones, video games, GPS navigation systems, and small household appliances. Including low-voltage and solar lights.
|Waste Handlers Increasingly Dispose of Electronics in More Earth-Friendly Ways|
Many electronics contain hazardous materials other than the batteries but virtually all cell phones, cameras and portable electronics use some type of Lithium Ion batteries.
Waste Management Industry is Adapting
Many waste disposal facilities are expanding ways to responsibly handle discarded electronics.
More and more, dumps and landfills have areas dedicated for electronics and appliances, since so many of the components can be recycled and since rapidly evolving technology means that items are replaced far more often than in the past.
Often, you will have to bring these items to the disposal facility yourself or hire somebody to do so.
Create Less Waste by Buying Quality Fixtures
Whether you choose low-voltage or solar lights, cheap is not always good. In our fifth year of selling solar lights, we now call most cheap lights disposable lights.
Usually these lights are bought in sets and often within a few weeks, at least one or two of the lights will have problems. If you get a full season out of each light, you're doing very well. More than that: often a miracle.
The vast majority of lights on the market today just aren't made well. Far too many products are nothing more than knockoffs by off-shore manufacturers with little regard other than producing and selling trendy items for the lowest possible cost. This year, it may be solar lights. Next year, who knows.
We used to sell cheap lights to meet the high demand for them, but found it wasn't worth it: too many unhappy customers and returns due to lousy warranties. And, people who have bad experiences with lousy solar lights are far more hesitant to make future investments in outdoor solar lights.
We recommend discount lights for one reason: when you need a large quantity of one light for a special evening occasion.
And if and when you do this, make sure you:
- Have extra batteries on hand (lots of discount lights spend many moons in warehouses before they are sold and often the batteries are dead when you get them)
- Make sure they get lots of sun well before the night and then keep them in a lighted area since cheap lights usually don't have off switches. Putting them in a box means they'll start to operate and the batteries will be out of power when you need them.
- Test all of the lights before the big night. And, buy a few more than you actually will need because the odds of all working properly aren't great.
Just like good low-voltage light, good solar lights cost more. But solar saves you electricity costs, it saves the cost of landscape disruptions and repairs, wiring, and transformers. The extra cost means you'll have lights that will last for years, not weeks or months.
Instead of buying new lights every season (or most often a lot sooner), good lights will last for years. Instead of replacements, spend a fraction of the money to replace batteries every 18-24 months, depending on how you use them.
We just replaced working solar lights that were almost five years old because we wanted a new look and stronger illumination, something that rapidly evolving solar lighting technology offers all the time. The old lights had a dated appearance but they performed well for 9 months every year with only one battery change.
And when we were done with the lights we:
- Removed the batteries and put them in the hazadous material bin at the dump
- Recycled the stainless steel base and frame, as well as the plastic pane/globe
- Put the components into the electronics disposal bin at the dump
Is All This Extra Work A Nuisance? Maybe, But It’s Worth It
Maybe you think that properly disposing of hazardous materials or electronics is a nuisance and that a few here and there won’t hurt make a difference.Just remember that in some form or another, everything put into your trash can eventually ends up in the water supply used for drinking, cooking and bathing.
And, who really wants unnecessary and dangerous chemicals on or in their bodies?
Copyright 2015, SolarFlairLighting.com