Mercury containing lamps may need to be recycled because of environmental issues.The environmental issue is that some lamps contain mercury Mercury is an essential component of energy-efficient light bulbs but Mercury is a toxic material with potentially serious health consequences.
The most widely known types of energy-efficient lighting containing mercury are fluorescent and compact fluorescent bulbs. High intensity discharge (HID) bulbs also use mercury in the process that generates light. HID bulbs include mercury vapor, metal halide and high-pressure sodium bulbs, often used for streetlights, floodlights, parking lots, and industrial lighting. Other mercury-containing bulbs include neon/argon lamps, commonly used for electric signs.
Service Lamp provides a lamp recycling service that meets all lamp disposal requirements. For information on disposing of ballasts check our ballast recycling page.
Lamp Disposal Regulations
Disposal regulations are difficult to understand at times. On one hand Mercury is a hazardous material. On the other hand light bulbs fall under a universal waste rule and can be thrown out with the normal trash with certain precautions. Putting mercury-containing bulbs in the trash is prohibited by some states yet allowed by others.
States that ban mercury-containing lamps from landfills are California, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Vermont, and parts of Florida. To add to the confusion Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York allow households to use landfills but ban business from sending lamps to landfills. The best practice for mercury-containing lamp disposal is to recycle.
Mercury containing bulbs should never be disposed of in an incinerator. If your trash disposal is by incineration do not dispose of mercury containing bulbs in the normal or universal waste stream.
We recommend you check for local recyclers to minimize the cost of transporting lamps to recycling. Service Lamp can provide recycling service if no local source is available.
Service Lamp supports the EPA recommendation to recycle mercury-containing bulbs at the end of their service life. Nationwide over 670 million mercury-containing bulbs are discarded each year.
Virtually all components of a fluorescent bulb can be recycled. The metal end caps, glass tubing, mercury and phosphor powder can all be separated and reused. The recycled metal and glass can be remanufactured into other products. The mercury can be recycled into new light bulbs and other mercury-containing devices. Mercury recovery is 99.99%. All Philips fluorescent lamps are made with recycled mercury in the U.S. Philips linear fluorescent lamps also have very low mercury content -- 1.7 mg compared to a 5-mg average cited by the EPA.
Simple Lamp Recycling
If there is lamp recycling in your area simply pack spent lamps in the box the new lamps come in and carefully transport them to the recycling facility. Packaging is a little more elaborate if lamps need to be shipped to a recycler.
Recycling packaging for mercury-containing lamps includes an external container, a liner to contain material in the event of breakage, and an internal container to help prevent breakage. A single, prepaid charge covers this packaging, transportation and recycling. Documentation provides a record of proper disposal.
EPA Conclusion on Mercury-containing Lamps
Even though some fluorescent bulbs will break and some mercury may be released into the environment, the EPA concludes: "...the use of mercury-containing bulbs for general indoor lighting makes good environmental sense. These bulbs are significantly more energy-efficient than incandescent bulbs because they require less energy to provide lighting. Electrical generation from coal-burning power plants also releases mercury into the environment. The use of fluorescent bulbs in place of incandescent bulbs lowers energy use and thus reduces the associated release of mercury from many power plants."
For a quote on recycling service call Service Lamp, 800-222-LAMP.