Toxics Management Division
Toxics Management Division

 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 tubes (fluorescent tubes with a “green-cap” claim to have low mercury content, but these lamps must also be recycled)
  • Compact fluorescent lamps
  • Metal halide lamps
  • Sodium lamps
  • Mercury vapor lamps
  • Neon lamps

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.

  • Berkeley Recycling Center, 669 Gilman St @ 2nd St, 524-0113. Accepts all types of fluorescent lighting (fee charged for large quantities).
  • Berkeley Ace Hardware, 2145 University Avenue, 845-0410, accepts CFLs only (free drop-off, for residents only)
  • Ensler Lighting, 1793 Solano Avenue, 526-4385, accepts CFLs only (free drop-off, for residents only)
  • Omega Too, 2204 San Pablo Avenue, 843-3636, accepts CFLs only (free drop-off, for residents only
  • Home Depot and IKEA currently take back CFL's from residents.  Please contact these businesses for more information.
  • Alameda County Household Hazardous Waste, 2100 E. 7th Street, Oakland, (800) 606-6606. Accepts all types of fluorescent lighting.

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.

  • Package fluorescent lamps and tubes carefully when storing and transporting them.
  • Store them in an area away from rain so that if they break, the mercury from the broken lamps or tubes will not be washed by rainwater into waterways.
  • Do not tape tubes together. 
  • Store and transport fluorescent lamps and tubes in the original box or another protective container.
  • When transporting fluorescent and HID lamps, carry them in the trunk of the car, if possible. Make sure there are no heavy items in the trunk that can shift or roll around and break or crush the lamps.

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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Toxics Management Division, 2120 Milvia Street 3rd Floor, Berkeley, CA 94704
Questions or comments? Email: toxics@cityofberkeley.info Phone: (510) 981-7460
(510) 981-CITY/2489 or 311 from any landline in Berkeley
TTY: (510) 981-6903
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