Light bulbs containing Mercury and ballasts containing PCB could pose health, environmental and financial risks unless properly managed. In many locations these materials can be disposed of as normal waste. A growing number of states prohibit these materials from going to landfills.
Mercury-containing bulbs are one of many mercury sources that could impact the environment during disposal. Nationwide, over 670 million mercury-containing bulbs are discarded each year. If these bulbs are discarded in municipal solid waste that is ultimately incinerated there would be a release of elemental mercury into the atmosphere.
The same is true for ballasts and capacitors with PCB in the dielectric fluid. While this manufacturing practice was discontinued in 1979 the estimate is that 300 million capacitors remain in service. Magnetic ballasts for fluorescent and high intensity discharge lamps can contain PCB.
Lamp Recycling and Disposal
Rules for disposing of bulbs with mercury are very clear but not clearly stated. As noted above many find their way to landfills. In most cases that causes no environmental damage. 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.
Mercury is an essential component of many energy-efficient light bulbs. The most widely known types of energy-efficient lighting that contain 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.
For additional information go to our lamp recycling page.
Ballast Recycling and Disposal
The ballast disposal issue is similar to mercury containing lamps. The ballast issue is not mercury but polychlorinated bi-phenols , PCB for short. Fluorescent and high intensity discharge magnetic ballasts made before 1980 are likely to contain PCB.
As with mercury-containing lamps the regulations are clear but not clearly stated. Federal regulations that allow non-leaking ballasts to be sent to the landfill are often overridden by more restrictive state rules. On the other hand a ballast leaking PCB is hazardous and must be carefully disposed of as hazardous waste.
For additional information go to our ballast recycling page.
For additional information on recycling call Service Lamp, 800-222-LAMP.