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Disposal of Lamps that Contain Mercury

Mercury CFL Lamp

Compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) are highly efficient. They use 75 percent less energy and on average last 7 to 10 times longer than standard incandescent bulbs. By requiring less energy, these bulbs reduce the amount of pollution from energy production, which includes the emission of mercury from coal combustion. Because these bulbs contain small amounts of mercury they need to be handled differently than regular, incandescent light bulbs.

Identifying Bulbs that Contain Mercury

Mercury-added bulbs manufactured after November 30, 2003 are labeled to read “Contains Mercury” or “Hg” within a circle on the lamp to signify that they must be handled with caution.

The following types of bulbs contain mercury:

  • Fluorescent, compact fluorescent, black lights.
  • Ultraviolet bulbs.
  • Neon bulbs.
  • High intensity discharge bulbs (HID). Most commonly used in security, outdoor and warehouse lighting.
    The following are HID bulbs:

    • mercury vapor
    • metal halide
    • high pressure sodium
    • HID lighting is also used in vehicle headlamps

There are no non-mercury fluorescent or HID bulbs available at this time. Green tip or low-mercury fluorescent lighting contains less mercury, but should be disposed of the same way mercury-added bulbs are.

Bulb Storage and Handling

  • Store bulbs in an area and in a way that will prevent them from breaking, such as in boxes the bulbs came in or in boxes supplied by a bulb recycler.
  • Do not break or crush bulbs because mercury may be released. If a bulb is accidentally broken, review the breakage clean-up procedure.

Disposal and Recycling

There is currently no Utah State or federal law requiring that mercury containing bulbs be recycled. Because these bulbs can break and seep mercury into the ground, which pollutes groundwater sources, we encourage residents to recycle them. If there are no facilities in your area that accept used bulbs, they can be disposed of in the garbage, however this should be a last resort if possible.

Many health departments have special collection points within their communities that accept used CFL bulbs.

If you live in Salt Lake County, the County library system has drop off boxes for used bulbs.

For additional CFL disposal locations, contact the hazardous waste handling facility in your area:

  • CFL Recycling
    EPA site.
  • LampRecycle.org
    Developed by the Lamp Section of the National Electrical Manufacturers Association, along with lamp recyclers,to provide lamp recycling contacts and other useful information.
  • Permanent Disposal Sites
    Salt Lake County Health Department page on household hazardous waste.

If your local waste management agency offers no other disposal options except your household garbage, place the CFL in a plastic bag and seal it before putting it in the trash. If your waste agency incinerates its garbage, you should search a wider geographic area for proper disposal options. Never send a CFL or other mercury-containing product to an incinerator.

Many retailers are currently exploring take-back programs and it is our hope that by the time your CFL needs to be replaced, a retailer program will be in place. ENERGY STAR qualified CFLs have a two-year warranty. If the bulb fails within the warranty period, return it to your retailer.

For more information about mercury and ways you can minimize exposure risks please click on the links below:

Fluorescent Lamps: Handling and Disposal Guidelines

Fluorescent and HID Lamps

Fluorescent and HID lamps contain mercury, a highly toxic heavy metal. When lamps are broken or thrown in the trash, mercury is released to the environment. Even the small amount of mercury-laden phosphor powder contained in lamps can damage our lakes and streams and poison fish and wildlife. It is due to this toxicity of the mercury contained in lamps, that there are restrictions (limits) on their disposal.

The following types of lamps should not be placed in the trash:

  • Fluorescent Lamps
    • full size fluorescents
    • compact fluorescents
  • High Intensity Discharge (HID) Lamps
    • mercury vapor lamps
    • metal halide lamps
    • sodium lamps

Why Use Fluorescent and HID Lamps?

Using energy-efficient lighting makes good sense because:

  • Fluorescent and HID lamps last longer
  • Use less electricity than incandescent lamps and therefore:
    • Cost less to run
    • Result in less air pollution emitted from coal burning power plants.

General Recycling Guide for Fluorescent Lamps:

Here are a few precautions to take with Fluorescent and HID lamps after they have burned out:

  • Do not break or crush lamps because mercury will be released.
  • To avoid breaking the lamps, package them carefully when storing and transporting them. DO NOT TAPE THEM TOGETHER!
  • Contact your local Town Manager or Solid Waste District for information on the recycling program for Fluorescent and HID lamps in your area.
  • If lamps are accidentally broken, follow the clean-up procedure below.

Lamp Breakage Clean-up Procedure

  • Keep all people and pets away from breakage area so that mercury powder is not tracked into other areas.
  • Keep the area well ventilated.
  • Assemble the necessary supplies before cleaning up: Latex gloves, tweezers, tape, and a puncture resistant container.
  • Using the latex gloves, carefully pick up any broken glass and place in a puncture resistant container. Tweezers may be needed to safely pick up broken glass. Tape can also be used to pick up any remaining small pieces of glass and powder residue still located on the spill surface. DO NOT VACUUM.
  • After clean-up is complete, place the contaminated clean-up equipment along with any other material that came in contact with the mercury powder into the puncture resistant container or a sealable plastic bag.
  • Contact your local Town Manager, Solid Waste District or the Agency of Natural Resources for waste management options.

Fluorescent Lamp Management: Q&A for Businesses and Municipalities

Should I crush my lamps?

No, crushing mercury-containing lamps may pose health and environmental risks when mercury vapors are released. Lamps should be stored in ways that avoid

How should I store mercury-containing lamps?

Place used lamps in packaging functionally equivalent to that used to ship new lamps.

  • Seal full packages with tape (Do not tape lamps together).
  • Label packages with any one of the following phrases:
    • “Waste Mercury-Containing Lamp(s)”
    • “Used Mercury-Containing Lamp(s)”
    • “Universal Waste Mercury-Containing Lamp(s)”
  • Store packages of lamps no more than five (5) feet high.
  • Store packages for no more than one year.
  • Store packages of waste mercury-containing lamps in a storage area identified by a sign that is clearly visible and has a label that includes the words: “Waste Mercury-Containing Lamps”.

What if a mercury-containing lamp breaks?

Once a lamp is broken, it is considered a hazardous waste and should not be thrown in the trash. First allow the area to ventilate for 15 minutes. Then transfer any damaged or broken mercury-containing lamps and residue to a closed compatible container labeled “Hazardous Waste” (with a description of the contents). Once properly contained and labeled, the broken lamps and residue should be stored on an impervious surface within a structure that sheds rain and snow.

How should we train workers who handle waste lamps?

All employees who handle or manage mercury-containing products shall be informed of proper handling and emergency procedures.

Do I need any permits for transporting my own waste fluorescent and HID lamps?

No, only commercial haulers of waste lamps need to get a waste transporter’s permit or certification.

What are the disposal options for mercury-containing lamps?

  • Recycling through a Municipal or Solid Waste District Household Hazardous Waste collection program,
  • Direct shipment to a lamp recycler or,
  • Shipment through a hazardous waste transporter.

Where can I get additional information?

Additional information can be found by:

  • Contacting your local Town Manager.
  • Contacting your local Solid Waste District.

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