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PBT-Free Purchasing Assistance in New Jersey

Organization(s) New Jersey Dept. of Environmental Protection
Project Description The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection's Office of Pollution Prevention and Right to Know (OPPRTK) has partnered with INFORM, a non-profit research group, on a project, "PBT-Free Purchasing Assistance in New Jersey." This effort builds on work INFORM initiated with the Purchase Bureau in the New Jersey State Treasury to reduce the purchase of products containing Persistent, Bioaccumulative, and Toxic (PBTs) substances for use by government agencies, businesses, and institutions. In particular, this project focuses on products containing mercury.

INFORM has worked with the State's Treasury to include mercury disclosure language in New Jersey's Request for Proposal (RFP) for incandescent high intensity discharge (HID) and fluorescent lamps - the first of its kind in the nation. Nationally, it is estimated that 2-4 tons of mercury are released from fluorescent tubes each year. New Jersey's contribution, based on population, is about 3 percent, or roughly 200 pounds per year. Switching to low mercury lamps with proper end-of-life recycling could significantly reduce this source of emissions.

Discussions with NJ DEP purchasing staff resulted in a pilot project to relamp some of the DEP-owned buildings with low mercury fluorescent lamps. Due to the direct impact of mercury on fish and sport fishing in New Jersey, the Fish and Wildlife Program was invited to be an initial participant in this pilot effort. NJ DEP staff and INFORM's green building specialist met with facility maintenance staff and performed a walk through of three NJ DEP Fish and Wildlife facilities - two small office buildings and one building containing a nature center and hatchery. INFORM and NJ DEP staff conducted an inventory of existing lamps at all three facilities. They discussed with facility staff the purchasing low mercury lamps from the state purchasing contracts and proper disposal techniques of existing lamps. Fish and Wildlife agreed to pilot the low-mercury lamps effort as a means to publicize and encourage adoption of this mercury reduction strategy by other state government programs.

The hatchery contains over 750 lamps of various sizes and types. The smaller office buildings use less than 100 lamps. Mercury content of lamps varies among manufacturers from 4.4 milligrams (mg) up to 15 mg for the standard 4 foot T12 lamp. Older lamps could contain as much as 60 mg. INFORM calculates that the fluorescent lamps at the hatchery alone could contain over 16 grams of mercury. When all the lamps are switched to "low mercury" lamps, they will contain slightly more than 3.5 grams of mercury.

Lamp disposal contributes to environmental releases. It is difficult to predict how much mercury is released from broken fluorescent lamps into the environment because releases are dependent upon handling procedures. Studies have shown that roughly 80 percent of the discarded lamps are broken, while 20 percent are recycled. Of the 80 percent that are broken, approximately 20-40 percent of the mercury in the lamps is released into the environment. Using the mid-range of 30 percent, installing low mercury lamps will result in 3 grams of mercury not released into the environment from this one hatchery facility.

Implementation of the change-out to low mercury lamps is expected to be completed by spring of 2004. NJ DEP used funds from the OPPRTK budget to initially purchase the lamps and EPA funds to educate staff and visitors of the facilities about the potential to accomplish mercury reductions through purchase and recycling of low mercury lamps. If the pilot is successful, it is expected that other DEP facilities and eventually all state facilities will change to low mercury fluorescent lamps, thus avoiding unnecessary mercury releases into the environment.

Project Contact
Name William Lowry
Phone 609-777-0518
Project Keywords
Areas of P2 Expertise Environmentally Preferable Purchasing
Newsletter Northeast States Pollution Prevention News - Vol. 14 No. 1, Spring 2004


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Last Modified 09/08/2009

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