All Fluorescent Lamps and Tubes Should Be Recycled or Disposed as Hazardous Waste

All fluorescent lamps and tubes are considered hazardous waste in California when they are discarded because they contain mercury. (Title 22, division 4.5, chapter 11, section 66261.50) This includes:

Fluorescent lamps and tubes:

  • Fluorescent tubes, including low mercury tubes.
  • Compact fluorescents, including low mercury lamps.

High Intensity Discharge (HID) Lamps:

  • Metal halide lamps, such as floodlights for  large indoor and outdoor areas and gymnasiums.
  • Sodium lamps, such as those sometimes used as security lighting and outdoor floodlights.
  • Mercury vapor lamps, such as those sometimes used for street lighting.

All fluorescent lamps and tubes must be recycled, or taken to a household hazardous waste disposal facility, a universal waste handler (e.g., storage facility or broker), or an authorized recycling facility. (Title 22, division 4.5, chapter 23, section 66273.8) (The law requiring that fluorescent lamps be recycled or taken to a household hazardous waste disposal facility, a universal waste handler, or an authorized recycling facility has been in effect since February 9, 2006.)

See a list of all wastes banned from the trash.

When mercury-containing lamps or tubes are placed in the trash and collected for disposal, the lamps or tubes are broken and mercury is released to the environment. Mercury vapors from broken lamps or tubes can be absorbed through the lungs into the bloodstream. People who are particularly close to the breakage are especially at risk. Mercury from broken lamps and tubes can also be washed by rain water into waterways.

According to a report entitled, Household Universal Waste Generation in California, August 2002, there were 15,555,556 fluorescent lamps sold in California in the year 2001. According to survey results published in the report, only 0.21% of these lamps were recycled.

How to Recycle or Safely Dispose Fluorescent Lamps and Tubes?

Households and Small Business with Only Small Numbers of Spent Lamp or Tubes at a Time

If you are going to use energy-efficient light bulbs, you need to become familiar with how to dispose of fluorescent tubes safely in your municipality. There are several options to choose from depending on your preference and location.

When it comes to proper hazardous waste disposal, taking precaution is of the utmost importance. When you notice a burnt out tube, be careful when uninstalling it. To do so, make sure your energy source is turned off so you don’t burn yourself and uninstall the tube slowly, making sure it doesn’t break. Once uninstalled, wrap the tube in paper or towels to prevent breakage. From here you have several options:

  • Find a recycling center that’s within your jurisdiction. Some states will require recycling while others require hazardous waste disposal. To search, simply type in your area code and you will get local recycling, hazardous waste and e-waste options that can dispose of burnt out tubes.
  • These tubes are considered universal waste and can be dropped off at a universal waste handler in large or small quantities. This can be especially helpful for facilities or businesses that may have a larger amount of tubes that need to be disposed of.
  • Head to your local Batteries Plus Bulbs store. These stores are located around the United States and will dispose of your used fluorescent tubes appropriately.
  • You can also call 800-CLEAN-UP for help finding an appropriate disposal center near you. You will be asked to enter in your zip code and then given options for centers.


  • Businesses now manage mercury-containing lamps and tubes as universal wastes for recycling. The recent universal waste regulations eliminate the hazardous waste manifest requirements and increase allowable storage time to one year.
  • Businesses can use prepaid mailing containers from lamp recyclers or contact a universal waste handler (e.g., storage facility, broker) or an authorized recycling facility.
  • Contact the DTSC office near you.
  • See the Web site of your local governmental household hazardous waste agency for the latest information in your area.

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