How to dispose of light bulbs with mercury

EPA recommends that consumers take advantage of available local options for recycling CFLs, fluorescent bulbs and other bulbs that contain mercury, and all other household hazardous wastes, rather than disposing of them in regular household trash.

  • Recycling CFLs
  • Where to Recycle CFLs

Benefits of Recycling CFLs

Recycling prevents the release of mercury into the environment. CFLs and other fluorescent bulbs often break when thrown into a dumpster, trash can or compactor, or when they end up in a landfill or incinerator. Learn more about CFLs and mercury.

  • Other materials in the bulbs get reused. Recycling CFLs and other fluorescent bulbs allows reuse of the glass, metals and other materials that make up fluorescent lights. Virtually all components of a fluorescent bulb can be recycled.
    • Your area may prohibit disposal and/or require recycling. Some states and local jurisdictions have more stringent regulations than U.S. EPA does, and may require that you recycle CFLs and other mercury-containing light bulbs. Visit search.Earth911.com to contact your local waste collection agency, which can tell you if such a requirement exists in your state or locality. We are aware that the following states prohibit mercury-containing lamps from being discarded into landfills: The following links exit the site
      • California
      • Maine
      • Massachusetts
      • Minnesota
      • New Hampshire (PDF)
      • Vermont
      • Washington

    Where to Recycle CFLs

    The short answer is: visit search.Earth911.com to find out.

    • Waste collection agencies
    • Local retailers
    • Mail-back services

    Contact your local waste collection agency

    • provide services that are usually free, though some may charge a small fee.
    • sometimes collect household hazardous wastes only once or twice a year, so residents will have to hold on to their light bulbs until the collection takes place. Other collection agencies provide collection services throughout the year.
    • may also collect paints, pesticides, cleaning supplies or batteries.
    • usually accept waste only from residents, although some collection programs include small businesses as well.

    Visit your local retailers

    Many hardware supply stores and other retailers offer in-store recycling.

    Visit search.Earth911.com to find stores in your area or check the list below.

    Make sure you check directly with the store before you go; not all stores in regional or nationwide chains may participate, and some stores may recycle only certain types of bulbs (for example, a store may recycle CFLs but not 4-foot fluorescent tubes).

    Find out about mail-back services

    Some bulb manufacturers and other organizations sell pre-labeled recycling kits that allow you to mail used bulbs to recycling centers. The cost of each kit includes shipping charges to the recycling center. You fill up a kit with old bulbs, seal it, and bring it to the post office or leave it for your postal carrier. Websites that provide more information about mail-back services.

    • U.S. EPA does not endorse, recommend, certify, authorize or approve of these services.
    • There may be other similar services of which we are not aware.
    • We only provide these links as a convenience to our web visitors.
    • BakPak Mail-Back Recycling (NLR, Inc.)
    • bulbcycle.com
    • EasyPak from Lamprecycling.com (AirCycle)
    • EcoLights
    • EverLights, Inc.
    • Heritage Lifecycle Mailback Services
    • Lampmaster
    • RecyclePak from Veolia Environmental Services
    • Simple Cycle (Lamp Environment Industries, Inc.)
    • Think Green From Home (Waste Management Inc.)
    • WasteSecure (Universal Recycling Technologies, LLC)

    If your state or local environmental regulatory agency permits you to put used or broken CFLs in the regular household trash, seal the bulb in a plastic bag and put it into the outside trash for the next normal trash collection.

    • View information about recycling and disposal requirements for CFLs and other “universal wastes” that apply to businesses
    • Learn how to establish a recycling program for mercury-containing light bulbs

    Follow the recommendations on this page if you need to dispose of another type of mercury-containing light bulb, such as:

    • Linear, U-tube and circline fluorescent tubes
    • Bug zappers
    • Tanning bulbs
    • Black lights
    • Germicidal bulbs
    • Fluorescent induction bulbs
    • High output bulbs, and
    • Cold-cathode fluorescent bulbs.
    • Metal halide
    • Ceramic metal halide
    • Induction
    • Plasma
    • High pressure sodium, and mercury vapor.

    Mercury short-arc bulbs; and Neon bulbs.

    Store fluorescent light bulbs in containers that prevent them from breaking, such as in their original boxes, boxes from replacement bulbs, or containers supplied by fluorescent light bulb recyclers. Recyclers generally require that the light bulbs arrive unbroken.

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    Things You Will Need

    Warning

    Be extremely careful when handling the mercury-containing bulbs—you don’t want to break one. If a bulb does break, clean up the glass carefully, and place the glass fragments in a trash bag. Take the broken glass to one of the recycling centers above.

    Mercury light bulbs, fluorescent and high-intensity discharge bulbs are energy-efficient, inexpensive and used in a variety of residential, commercial and industrial situations including schools, homes, floodlights and parking lots. Both types of bulbs are long lasting, but they do burn out. You must properly dispose of these mercury-containing light bulbs to keep the mercury from leaking into the soil and damaging the environment.

    Remove the burned out mercury-containing bulb from the light fixture carefully. Wear gloves and don’t jar or bump the bulb—it may break.

    Place the bulb in a trash bag, close the bag and secure it with some tape.

    Visit your local Home Depot store and give the burned out mercury-containing bulb to one of the store’s CFL bulb recycling representatives. (Ask the clerk at the “Customer Service” desk.) The Home Depot has a recycling program that accepts mercury-containing light bulbs. There is no charge for the service, and it is available at Home Depots throughout the U.S.

    Visit your local Ikea store, and give the burned out bulb to the store’s CFL bulb recycling representative if a Home Depot is not in your area. Ikea also has a recycling program that accepts your mercury-containing light bulbs. The recycling service is free and available at Ikea stores throughout the U.S.

    Visit your local Orchard Supply store if you live in California and there is not a Home Depot or Ikea in your area. The service is free.

    How to dispose of light bulbs with mercury

    When fluorescent tubes and other mercury-containing lights burn out, there are some simple steps to safely dispose of them.

    Fluoro tubes and compact fluorescent lamps (CPLs) contain small amounts of mercury and are commonly found in homes and workplaces.

    While there are only tiny quantities of mercury in each light, the millions of fluorescent tubes and CFLs tossed in the bin each year constitute the largest source of mercury bound for Australian landfill.

    So when bulbs stop working and need to be changed, it’s important that old fluorescent lighting is recycled to avoid toxic mercury leaching into waterways and the wider ecosystem.

    Recycling fluorescent lighting also recovers valuable materials like glass, aluminium and phosphor that can be used in products like fertilizer and aluminium cans.

    Here are three easy steps you can take when you need to safely dispose of mercury-containing lights:

    1. Remove bulb, store it somewhere safe

    First, remove the bulb and store it somewhere safe until it is ready to be recycled at a designated collection point.

    The only time when you should put mercury-containing lighting in your bin at home is when the globe is broken.

    If the globe is broken, make sure you follow these steps to clean it up properly, then wrap up the broken bulb and place it in your general waste bin.

    2. Find your local recycling point

    Local councils can collect different types of lighting, however it’s important to check ahead.

    For example, you will need to take fluorescent tubes to waste depots however, you may be able to leave CFLs at council offices.

    Businesses such as IKEA also have drop-off points for used CPLs.

    You can visit the Recycling Near You website to find your local disposal point and learn more about the recycling programs in your state.

    3. Contact Ecocycle if you have large volumes of lights

    If you have a business with commercial-scale amounts of used fluorescent lighting, then Ecocycle can help.

    As Australia’s largest lighting and mercury recycler, we provide a full lighting recycling service from the supply of boxes and stillages, through to pick-up and provision of recycling certificates.

    We can collect all types of lighting, as well as old ballasts, lighting frames that hold the globes or tubes, and old wiring.

    We can tailor a recycling program to your needs, so give us a call on 1300 32 62 92 or fill in the form below to speak with one of our lighting waste specialists.

    Discover how to dispose of toxic mercury bulbs in two simple steps!

    Home » Blog » How to Dispose of Mercury Bulbs Ethically and Responsibly

    In many states, including California, compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs, high-intensity discharge (HID) bulbs, and other mercury bulbs are defined as universal waste. For this reason, they should stay out of the trash and, ultimately, landfills. If you’re looking to avoid fines and fees and remain eco-friendly, you need to be mindful of your disposal etiquette. Below, we’ll discuss how to dispose of mercury bulbs responsibly in two simple steps.

    Discard Mercury Bulbs in Two Easy Steps

    Even if you’re using energy-efficient fluorescent light bulbs with small amounts of mercury, they’re still considered a hazard and should be treated as such. When it comes time to dispose of used mercury bulbs, follow our guidelines below.

    Keep Them Stored in a Safe and Secure Place

    Before taking any action, make sure you have a safe area to store your bulbs before being hauled away. Never place them in a recycling bin with other materials or tape them together. It’s crucial to keep mercury lightbulbs away from children and pets.

    If you can, try keeping them in their original packaging. Otherwise, opt for a box or storage container to reduce their chances of shattering and spreading mercury vapor. If, by accident, you do end up with a broken bulb, make sure everyone exits the room. Then, follow these clean-up instructions recommended by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

    Locate Your Nearest Recycler for a Drop-off or Scheduled Pick-up

    After you’ve designated a safe place for storing your mercury-containing light bulbs, it’s time to do some research and select the most appropriate option for hauling. A select number of states and localized regions throughout the country require businesses and households to follow strict regulations when disposing of hazardous waste. California specifically requires that all fluorescent tubes be recycled or handed over to a waste disposal or universal waste hauler. Whether you go with a local drop-off center or a hazardous waste pick-up center is contingent upon your business’s size, amount of light bulbs needing recycled, and your location.

    If you’re only dealing with a handful of bulbs, you may be able to use your county’s household hazardous waste (HHW) drop-off location. Several nationwide retailers, such as Ikea and Home Depot, also provide drop-off services for used CFL bulbs that you can take advantage of. For other suitable alternatives, use a recycling database to pinpoint authorized waste collectors in your area.

    You’ll most likely need to arrange a pick-up time with a commercial hazardous waste disposer if you’re a large company with hundreds or more bulbs to recycle. Many businesses schedule these services in advance. Typically, they will stop by your facility on a weekly or monthly basis to haul your material for you. Make sure you keep copies of all receipts and shipping paperwork on hand.

    If you’re searching for mercury bulb disposal services near Los Angeles, CA, look no further than Easy Waste Management. Our universal waste management services can help ensure you’re keeping toxic mercury bulbs out of landfills while complying with regulations. Contact us today for your free consultation!

    • Fluorescent and HID 1 Lamps Contain Mercury. When broken, incinerated, or buried in a landfill, they release mercury into the air, water and soil and endanger human health and the environment.
    • The New York State Department of Health lists more than 70 bodies of water in the State with sport fish consumption advisories for mercury, warning pregnant women and young children not to eat certain species of fish.
    • Standard mercury-containing fluorescent and HID lamps, which fail the Toxicity Characteristic Leaching Procedure (TCLP), MUST be managed as a hazardous waste in accordance with New York State Hazardous Waste Regulations or the Universal Waste Rule. See disposal options below.
    • “Green end cap” or other low-mercury lamps that pass the TCLP, are not mercury free and MUST be recycled or managed by an authorized facility in accordance with recent legislation (Chapter 145, Laws of 2004), which became effective on July 12, 2005. Certain small businesses, as defined by Chapter 145, Laws of 2004, with 100 or less employees disposing of 15 or less non-hazardous waste lamps per month are exempt.
    • All businesses and households are STRONGLY encouraged to recycle their mercury-containing lamps, including low-mercury or “green end cap” lamps.
    • Improper disposal of mercury lamps is AGAINST THE LAW. Violators will be subject to civil and criminal penalties and may be held liable for contaminated waste sites. Also, employees may be exposed to unsafe mercury levels from mismanaged waste lamps.
    • Fluorescent lamps are approximately 75% more efficient than incandescent bulbs and last 5-10 times longer. Using them will help lower your electric bill!

    1- HID (High-Intensity Discharge) bulbs include metal halide, high pressure sodium and mercury vapor lamps used commonly in commercial indoor and outdoor lighting and other specialty lighting applications.

    Disposal Options for Fluorescent and HID Lamps in New York State

    For Commercial/Institutional:

    Dispose of fluorescent and HID lamps through one of the following sources:

    Lamp Recyclers List:

    Listed recyclers and/or companies that manage mercury-containing lamps are in no way endorsed by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

    Check the yellow pages of your telephone book for “Hazardous Waste Disposal”, “Waste Disposal”, “Waste Recycling”, etc., to obtain a list of vendors servicing your area.

    Electrical Distributors/Retailers:

    Some distributors/retailers provide waste management services, offering a convenient, one-stop shopping arrangement for lamp purchasing and spent lamp management. Ask your lamp distributor if they provide this service, or check the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) web page available on the right side of this page under “Links Leaving DEC’s Website”.

    Waste lamps managed by a distributor in this manner must be managed as a Universal Waste. Otherwise, utilizing this service may put you out of compliance. Always ask them to ensure your lamps will be managed under the Universal Waste Rule!!

    For More Information regarding proper lamp management:

    Contact the RCRA Compliance and Technical Support Section by
    Phone: 518-402-8652
    E-mail: [email protected]
    Mail:
    NYSDEC
    Division of Materials Management
    RCRA Compliance and Technical Support Section
    625 Broadway
    Albany, NY 12233-7256

    For Households:

    Households are exempt from the regulations but strongly encouraged to recycle fluorescent and HID lamps. Recycle them through your local NYS DEC sponsored Household Hazardous Waste Program. For more information, call 518-402-8678.


    For updated information about mercury and the management of mercury-added consumer products in New York State
    , visit: Management of Mercury-Added Consumer Products in New York State.

    The contents of this page were prepared in cooperation with the Northeast Waste Management Officials’ Association (NEWMOA). This project was EPA funded.

    • Fluorescent and HID 1 Lamps Contain Mercury. When broken, incinerated, or buried in a landfill, they release mercury into the air, water and soil and endanger human health and the environment.
    • The New York State Department of Health lists more than 70 bodies of water in the State with sport fish consumption advisories for mercury, warning pregnant women and young children not to eat certain species of fish.
    • Standard mercury-containing fluorescent and HID lamps, which fail the Toxicity Characteristic Leaching Procedure (TCLP), MUST be managed as a hazardous waste in accordance with New York State Hazardous Waste Regulations or the Universal Waste Rule. See disposal options below.
    • “Green end cap” or other low-mercury lamps that pass the TCLP, are not mercury free and MUST be recycled or managed by an authorized facility in accordance with recent legislation (Chapter 145, Laws of 2004), which became effective on July 12, 2005. Certain small businesses, as defined by Chapter 145, Laws of 2004, with 100 or less employees disposing of 15 or less non-hazardous waste lamps per month are exempt.
    • All businesses and households are STRONGLY encouraged to recycle their mercury-containing lamps, including low-mercury or “green end cap” lamps.
    • Improper disposal of mercury lamps is AGAINST THE LAW. Violators will be subject to civil and criminal penalties and may be held liable for contaminated waste sites. Also, employees may be exposed to unsafe mercury levels from mismanaged waste lamps.
    • Fluorescent lamps are approximately 75% more efficient than incandescent bulbs and last 5-10 times longer. Using them will help lower your electric bill!

    1- HID (High-Intensity Discharge) bulbs include metal halide, high pressure sodium and mercury vapor lamps used commonly in commercial indoor and outdoor lighting and other specialty lighting applications.

    Disposal Options for Fluorescent and HID Lamps in New York State

    For Commercial/Institutional:

    Dispose of fluorescent and HID lamps through one of the following sources:

    Lamp Recyclers List:

    Listed recyclers and/or companies that manage mercury-containing lamps are in no way endorsed by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

    Check the yellow pages of your telephone book for “Hazardous Waste Disposal”, “Waste Disposal”, “Waste Recycling”, etc., to obtain a list of vendors servicing your area.

    Electrical Distributors/Retailers:

    Some distributors/retailers provide waste management services, offering a convenient, one-stop shopping arrangement for lamp purchasing and spent lamp management. Ask your lamp distributor if they provide this service, or check the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) web page available on the right side of this page under “Links Leaving DEC’s Website”.

    Waste lamps managed by a distributor in this manner must be managed as a Universal Waste. Otherwise, utilizing this service may put you out of compliance. Always ask them to ensure your lamps will be managed under the Universal Waste Rule!!

    For More Information regarding proper lamp management:

    Contact the RCRA Compliance and Technical Support Section by
    Phone: 518-402-8652
    E-mail: [email protected]
    Mail:
    NYSDEC
    Division of Materials Management
    RCRA Compliance and Technical Support Section
    625 Broadway
    Albany, NY 12233-7256

    For Households:

    Households are exempt from the regulations but strongly encouraged to recycle fluorescent and HID lamps. Recycle them through your local NYS DEC sponsored Household Hazardous Waste Program. For more information, call 518-402-8678.


    For updated information about mercury and the management of mercury-added consumer products in New York State
    , visit: Management of Mercury-Added Consumer Products in New York State.

    The contents of this page were prepared in cooperation with the Northeast Waste Management Officials’ Association (NEWMOA). This project was EPA funded.

    Why use an ENERGY STAR™ qualified compact fluorescent light bulb?

    • CFLs use up to 75% less electricity
    • CFLs last up to 10 times longer
    • CFLs produce 75% less heat, reducing home cooling demands, resulting in higher energy savings.

    While ENERGY STAR™ qualified compact fluorescent light bulbs contain a small amount of mercury, their use creates a net reduction of mercury emissions to our environment, as compared to using incandescent lighting. Since
    they use less electricity than traditional incandescent bulbs, less power from coal-fired plants is required, resulting in reduced mercury emissions.

    What is mercury?
    Mercury is an element (Hg) found naturally in the environment, including the air, soil and water. It is found in many rocks including coal. When coal is burned, mercury is released into the environment. Coal-burning power plants are the largest human-caused source of mercury emissions to the air in the United States, accounting for over 40 percent of all domestic human-caused mercury emissions. Mercury in the air eventually settles into water where it can transform into methyl mercury and build up in fish.

    The amount of mercury in a CFL bulb is less than 5 milligrams and is significantly smaller than a dime in size.

    Why is it important to recycle CFLs?
    Because mercury is a necessary component in all compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs), including ENERGY STAR™ qualified light bulbs, the bulbs should be handled responsibly and be recycled. Information about recycling can be found at the following websites:

    Where can I recycle a CFL in Chicago?
    1. You can take used CFLs to the
    household chemicals and computer recycling Facility located at 1150 N. North Branch.
    2. You can also take them to any home depot. Visit www.homedepot.com to find a store near you.

    What to do if a CFL bulb or fluorescent tube light bulb breaks in your home:

    • Have people and pets leave the room.
    • Air out the room for 5-10 minutes by opening a window or door to the outdoor environment.
    • Shut off the central forced air heating/air-conditioning (H&AC) system, if you have one.
    • Collect materials needed to clean up broken bulb.
    • Be thorough in collecting broken glass and visible powder.
    • Place cleanup materials in a sealable container.
    • Promptly place all bulb debris and cleanup materials outdoors in a trash container or protected area until materials can be disposed of properly. Avoid leaving any bulb fragments or cleanup materials indoors.
    • For several hours, continue to air out the room where the bulb was broken and leave the H&AC system shut off.

    It’s estimated that almost 60,000 children are born each year that may develop neurodevelopment problems. This is because of in utero exposure to mercury.

    It’s believed that 6 to 8 percent of women between the ages of 16 and 49 are exposed to mercury. Negative side effects are almost guaranteed for infants. That’s because developing embryos are five to 10 times more sensitive to mercury than adults.

    Most people are exposed to mercury by eating contaminated fish. This shows how interconnected everything truly is.

    What Are the Effects of Mercury Exposure?

    If exposed to mercury in high doses, it can have numerous adverse effects on your health, such as:

    • harming the immune system;
    • alters genetic and enzyme systems;
    • damages the nervous system;
    • hurts coordination, and;
    • changes the sense of touch, taste, and sight.

    In the most severe cases, mercury poisoning results in death.

    Knowing how to dispose of mercury is important for the health of the environment. In this guide, we’ll cover the appropriate steps you should take for mercury disposal.

    How to Dispose of Mercury

    Disposing of mercury safely is of the utmost importance.

    The last thing you want is for mercury to leak and come into contact with yourself, family, or employees. This can lead to devastating consequences.

    For a business that qualifies as a universal waste handler, it must follow regulations set forth by the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). Universal wastes containing mercury include such things as certain batteries, thermostats, barometers, manometers, temperature and pressure gauges, specific switches, and light bulbs.

    Households are exempt from these strict regulations. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t dispose of mercury following safety guidelines though. Many states and local municipalities have household hazardous waste collection programs.

    There are also many businesses that offer mail-in disposal services for mercury. The steps for how this service works is quite simple. You order a storage container from their service, place your mercury within the container, then mail it back to their facility for it to be processed.

    Packaging Steps

    • Once you’ve ordered a storage container, place the mercury-containing product inside.
    • Pour kitty litter or an oil-absorbent matter around the outside of the product. This protects the product from being jostled around and broken open. If it DOES break open, the kitty litter or oil-absorbent matter will absorb the mercury. If using a waste disposal service, check their instructions, as they may differ on this.
    • Label the storage container as “Mercury – DO NOT OPEN” or follow whatever instructions the waste disposal service provides.
    • If waiting for a hazardous waste collection day, store it with labels intact out of reach of children and pets. If using a disposal service provider, mail the container back to the service.

    Always Be Safe

    Mercury poisoning is a real threat to the planet and all life upon it. Knowing how to dispose of mercury the proper way is essential, whether you operate a business or are cleaning out your home.

    We hope this guide proved useful in showing you the appropriate steps to follow to dispose of your mercury-containing product. If you enjoyed this article, we invite you to read other posts on our website.

    Contact LampMaster today to have all your waste disposal needs met.