Fluorescent Lamps and Incandescent Bulbs Recycling

Waste fluorescent lamps and light bulbs contain toxic heavy metals and are usually hazardous wastes. Businesses, institutions and offices should recycle their waste fluorescent lamps rather than dispose of them in landfills.

Why are waste lamps and bulbs regulated?

Waste lamps and bulbs are regulated as hazardous wastes because they contain toxic heavy metals. If these lamps are burned or thrown into landfills, the mercury and lead in them can be released into the environment, where contamination problems may occur. Five types of lamps are of concern:

  • Fluorescent lamps
  • High- and Low-pressure mercury vapor lamps
  • Sodium-vapor lamps
  • High intensity discharge (HID) lamps
  • Incandescent light bulbs

The first four lamps contain mercury in concentrations that exceed the toxicity characteristic leaching procedure's (TCLP) limit. Incandescent light bulbs contain lead at levels that exceed hazardous waste limits. (The TCLP test is a common laboratory test used to. determine if solid waste contains harmful concentrations of certain pollutants.) Nearly every business, institution and government agency generates waste lamps and bulbs that could.become a hazardous waste problem if not handled properly. The DNR has developed a policy encouraging lamp and bulb recycling that protects the environment while reducing the regulatory burden for managing waste lamps. This policy can be found at http://dnr.wi.gov/org/aw/wm/publications/anewpub/WA195.pdf

Waste lamps that aren't recycled are subject to hazardous waste regulations that usually require storage, transport and other licenses or approvals from the state Department of Natural Resources.

What should I do with my waste lamps and bulbs?

Place waste lamps in the cardboard sleeve or box in which replacement tubes or bulbs arrived, then store the lamps where they can't be broken, such as in a safe closet or basement. Mark the area and containers where waste lamps are stored as a hazardous waste storage area so people don't accidentally throw trash on the tubes and break them.. If tubes are broken, they should be stored in a heavy plastic bag placed inside a rigid container. If a lamp relycler will take broken lamps, they may go to the recycler. Otherwise, broken lamps should be managed as hazardous waste, along with waste lamps that can't be recycled yet, such as incandescent light bulbs.

For businesses, waste lamp generators may contract with a solid or hazardous waste transporter to move lamps to a recycler. Generators also may safely transport their lamps to the recycler. Generators may accumulate waste lamps from several locations in a central facility to ease transport and recycling. As long as waste lamps are going to a recycler in Wisconsin, it's not necessary to fill out a hazardous waste manifest for transportation in Wisconsin, although it's encouraged. If these wastes are being shipped to or through other states, then the transportation rules of those states should be checked. Waste lamp generators also do not need to fill out annual reports for their waste lamps. This policy does not relieve generators of other hazardous wastes from any hazardous waste requirements.