A Guide to Fluorescent Lamp Disposal

Fluorescent Lamp Recycling


Take a look around your home or business. Chances are, your lamps and other lights are powered by Fluorescent Lamps or their smaller counterpart, Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFL), which operate via an electric current moving through a tube that uses argon and mercury vapor to generate ultraviolet light, according to Energy Star. This ultraviolet light then turns on a coating known as phosphor to emit the light that you see. They are increasingly becoming more and more common in an effort to replace halogen lamps because they output the same amount of light yet use just a 1/3 of the energy, says the U.S. General Services Administration. Fluorescent bulbs also last about 10 times longer than incandescents.

Environmental Impact

Most components, from glass to metals, of a fluorescent bulb can be recycled. If you simply throw a used bulb into the trash, this could cause the release of mercury into the environment. When emitted into the atmosphere, it becomes methyl-mercury when in contact with soil and water, which can then infect the food chain. When certain foods are eaten, such as fish, certain negative health effects can occur, particularly in relation to neurological development in fetuses' growing brains and nervous systems, according to the EPA. This substance can affect cognitive thinking, attention span, memory, language, and fine motor and visual spatial skills.

Financial Benefits

Fluorescent bulbs are used within homes and companies because they save on energy costs, plus they provide a longer shelf life, which in turn saves more money since there's no need to replace them as often. Did you know that upgrading 15 of your home's old incandescent lightbulbs could help you save about $50 per year? That's according to Energy.gov, which says you get the same amount of light for much less money. This can really add up over the life of the bulb, especially when you factor in lighting on a grand scale such as within a large company. There is another very real financial impact for non-compliance of proper disposal, though.

Financial Risks

Under the Electronic Waste Recycling Act, it's illegal to simply throw fluorescent lamps in the trash. In fact, businesses especially could face up to $25,000 per day per violation, according to SFGate. Partnering with a fluorescent lamp recycler may be advantageous to businesses who must properly dispose of fluorescent lamps, as they could be at risk of pretty severe financial penalties, fines, liability and even criminal prosecution if they fail to comply. The rules in your state may be even stricter than the federal law, as many states have put into place more stringent legislation that strengthens upon the basic federal law.

What You Can Do

If you're unsure of what the policy is in your town regarding disposal of fluorescent lamps and bulbs, it's best to recycle them properly through your community's recycling program. Many towns even sponsor special disposal days in the spring and fall where you can go down to the local containment center and drop off your questionable items. Start at Earth 911 for help. Just input your search item and your city/state, then press Search.

Doing your part to properly recycle fluorescent lamps is your responsibility as a citizen and business owner.