Fluorescent Lamp Recycling  

Why use fluorescent lights?

Fluorescent lights are an excellent financial and environmental choice because they use 75% less energy than incandescent lights and last approximately ten times longer.  The reduction in energy consumption, in turn, helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions, mercury, and other pollution that comes from energy production.  Although they cost more than incandescent lights, their lower energy usage and replacement rates offer a significant cost savings to home and business owners. 

Unfortunately, some of the properties that make these lights energy-efficient can also cause concerns in other areas.

What is the concern?

Mercury is an essential element in fluorescent lamps and is what allows the bulb to be an efficient light source.  Mercury is both toxic to people and to the environment.  Therefore, used fluorescent and HID lamps must be managed properly because they contain mercury. 

Which lamps contain mercury?

Fluorescent Lamp Types

Source: http://libertylightingoregon.com/_wsn/page3.html

Health Effects of Mercury Exposure

No mercury is released when the bulbs are intact or in use; exposure is possible only when a bulb has been broken.  Learn about how to clean up broken bulbs by seeing our Handling section below.

You can view information about the health effects associated with mercury exposure on EPA's Mercury website by clicking here. If you are concerned about your exposure to mercury, you should consult your physician.

Disposal Options

If you are a property manager, electrical lighting contractor or other business, please click here to learn about the specific requirements that apply to you. Additional options can be found on AirCycle.com and LampRecycling.com.

Beginning in February 2006, the State of California banned the disposal of common household items such as fluorescent lamps and household batteries in household trash.  It is illegal to dispose of fluorescent bulbs in the trash or recycling bin!

There are a number of locations that will accept household generated fluorescent lights.  Residents can drop off fluorescent lights at the following locations during regular business hours.  Please take note of the types of fluorescent lights each location will accept.

For more information, please visit the Bring Em' Back campaign informational page at http://www.bringembackac.org/return/

For disposal of other household hazardous wastes, such as batteries, paints, solvents, etc., visit the Alameda County Household Hazardous Waste website at www.stopwaste.org.

Handling

DO NOT BREAK FLUORESCENT TUBES OR LAMPS - Approximately 370 pounds of mercury were released in California in the year 2000 due to the breakage of fluorescent lamps and tubes during storage and transportation1.

Do not mix different types of universal waste.  If you do need to take different types of universal waste to the collection center, take it in separate bags so that the collection center does not need to sort them.

If a bulb breaks, clean up the breakage using the guidelines from the DTSC website:  http://www.dtsc.ca.gov/HazardousWaste/UniversalWaste/Fluorescent_Lights.cfm

Contact

For more information, contact the Toxics Management Division at 981-7460 or toxics@cityofberkeley.info.

Resources

Mercury Report—Department of Toxic Substances Control, Hazardous Waste Management Program, State Regulatory Programs Division, August 2002. Portable Document Format (PDF),865 KB.

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