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:
Take lamps and tubes to a household hazardous waste collection center or event. Find where to recycle or dispose fluorescent lamps and tubes at Where Can I Recycle My…?, or Earth 911, or call 800 CLEAN-UP (253-2687). Enter your zip code to find the nearest recycling center.
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.)
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
- Take lamps and tubes to a household hazardous waste collection center or event. Find where to recycle or dispose fluorescent lamps and tubes at Where Can I Recycle My…?, or Earth 911, or call 800 CLEAN-UP (253-2687). Enter your zip code to find the nearest recycling center. Includes information for many types of recyclable material, including household hazardous waste.
- See the Web site of your local governmental household hazardous waste agency for the latest information in your area.
- While compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs) have extensive recycling options through retail drop-offs and mail-in programs, the same can’t be said for fluorescent tubes. Luckily, these tubes will last up to 15,000 hours, so you won’t need to worry about recycling them often.
- When uninstalling a burnt-out tube, make sure to turn off the fuse box providing power to that section of the house. Use a ladder to ensure the bulb doesn’t fall to the ground. You’ll then need to remove the light cover and unscrew the tube.
- If the tube breaks, here’s what to do. There’s no recycling market for broken fluorescent lamps.
- Pack your tube in newspaper or bubble wrap when transporting to a recycling center or household hazardous waste event. You don’t want it to break in your car.
- 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.Disposal of fluorescent tubes regulations
- 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.
Why is Recycling CFLs Important?
- 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 the 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 EXIT 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: