Mercury Disposal
January 16, 2024

RCRA (Resource Conservation and Recovery Act) designates hazardous wastes as ‘universal wastes.’ Mercury and mercury-containing vessels, such as thermostats, manometers, temperature and pressure gauges, certain light bulbs and switches, and batteries all fall under this hazardous waste designation. If your facility uses these types of vessels or works with mercury, contact Environmental Marketing Services to learn about mercury disposal regulations.

Many states hold households exempt from requirements on storing, transporting, and mercury disposal, while some regulate fluorescent bulbs as hazardous no matter the mercury content in them. There are also certain jurisdictions and states that have passed regulations that are more stringent than the federal hazardous waste regulations. For example, in the State of Vermont, all mercury-containing waste is banned from landfills, even that generated by households.

For more information, and to ensure you are following all guidelines and regulations for mercury disposal, contact Environmental Marketing Services.

What is Mercury and Its Dangers?

Mercury is a metal that when at room temperature becomes liquid. This liquid metal easily conducts electricity and will expand and contract evenly with temperature changes. Thousands of medical, agricultural, industrial, and household applications use mercury.

Mercury is a toxic substance that will build up in the environment over time instead of dissipating. This metal can negatively impact human health and wildlife that come into contact with it. Rivers and lakes can also become contaminated if there is a direct discharge of mercury-containing waste from municipal sewage. If mercury is released into the air from burning or buried waste, it can end up in bodies of water. Biologists have found mercury in high levels as long ago as the mid-1970s in fish sampled from Minnesota and Wisconsin lakes. When mercury accumulates in the fish that are caught and then eaten, it means that it can then be digested by humans.

While mercury can be useful, for example in energy-saving fluorescent lights, it can also pose a significant health risk. These risks come from direct exposure to mercury or when someone eats a contaminated fish.

How to Dispose of Mercury

To understand how mercury disposal is done, you need to identify the type of mercury you are dealing with. You need to know if it is elemental, contained in a manufactured vessel, or a mercury compound. These are some of the types of mercury devices and waste handled by Environmental Marketing Services.

Mercury Contaminated Debris

Many commercial products contain mercury. Certain skin-lightening creams contain mercury and should not be used. The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) encourages you to consider alternatives to products that contain mercury. One example of an alternative would be to use a digital thermometer rather than a mercury thermometer.

Other commercial products that can contain mercury and end up as contaminated debris needing disposal include:

  • Antiques- antique barometers, mirrors, organs containing mercury, vases, and clock pendulums
  • Appliances- older model electric appliances such as space heaters, chest freezers, clothes irons, clothes dryers, and washing machines can all have mercury switches
  • Automotive parts- automobiles manufactured before 2003 may have mercury relays or switches

Mercury Solutions

There are a couple of ways to handle mercury solutions to safely dispose of them. Recycling is an effective manner, but not always possible as it requires chemical processing designed to specifically handle mercury. The other method is encapsulation.

Encapsulation stops mercury from interacting with the environment. The mercury solution is sealed within a non-degrading material and then stored where it will not be disturbed for an extended period of time, such as in a landfill.

Elemental Mercury

Products containing mercury cannot be placed in regular trash because the mercury will not disappear. Mercury-containing products will break up and the mercury itself will then find its way into the environment. Elemental mercury and mercury products must be managed as hazardous waste. Environmental Marketing Services can dispose of these products and the mercury safely and effectively.

Some of the more common mercury devices requiring proper mercury disposal methods include:

  • Mercury thermometers Mercury thermometers are constructed from glass and are typically the size of a straw. The thermometer will have a silvery-white liquid inside. These thermometers are commonly used in households, schools, power plants, breweries, wineries, and laboratories.
  • Mercury barometers- Mercury barometers are instruments used to measure atmospheric pressure within a specific location. They are a vertical glass tube closed at the top and sit in an open mercury-filled basin. Air pressure is measured by observing the height of the column of mercury in the glass tube.

All of the above-mentioned mercury devices, mercury debris, or any type of product containing mercury should be disposed of through a professional service, such as Environmental Marketing Services. It is critical this hazardous metal be properly disposed of to ensure protection to the environment, wildlife, and humans.

Environmental Marketing Services provides mercury waste disposal services including on-site packing, transportation, and final disposal. These services are available nationwide, excluding Alaska, Hawaii, and New Jersey.

Mercury Spill Cleanup Kits

Liquid mercury will vaporize at room temperature causing the air breathed containing high levels of mercury. This vapor is not irritating and is odorless, so humans in the room will not realize they are breathing it. Even small amounts of mercury from a spill or broken vessel can cause serious harm, especially to children.

Mercury exposure can happen when someone handles or plays with the liquid metal or when a mercury device is broken. The mercury beads scatter onto the floor or surface area where the break occurred. Spilled mercury is extremely hard to clean up, especially if it begins rolling into crevices or cracks, or if it is on a porous material.

If a mercury spill happens in your lab or workplace, please be advised that breathing even small amounts of mercury vapor can harm the nervous system of children, unborn babies, and nursing mothers. Mercury spills need to be cleaned up immediately. Large amounts of mercury vapor can cause memory loss, shortness of breath, irritability, eye and respiratory irritation, high blood pressure, chest pains, and kidney damage.

If your facility is a high risk for mercury spills, talk to the experts at Environmental Marketing Services about mercury spill cleanup kits. These kits typically contain powder and suction devices. Before using one of these mercury spill cleanup kits, instructions and warnings must be received so cleanup is done safely and effectively.

Cost Effective and Safe Mercury Disposal Services

Whether you are looking for disposal services for organic, inorganic materials, or delicate mercury solutions and substances, Environmental Marketing Services is your solution. Environmental Marketing Services provides comprehensive, guaranteed solutions for all your hazardous materials and mercury disposal needs. We guarantee strict compliance with environmental standards and are committed to sustainability and safety. As a trusted partner for laboratories, we ensure a cleaner and safer environment for all.

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