Why Recycle Lamps?
Nationwide, efforts to increase energy conservation and lower operating costs are resulting in the increasing use of fluorescent lamps and compact fluorescent lamps or CFLs. The downside: each lamp contains mercury which can be harmful to both humans and wildlife.
Links to more comprehensive information on mercury can be found on our Useful Links page.
RECYCLING FLOURESCENT LAMPS
Fluorescent lamps contain mercury and are regulated as a hazardous waste at the Federal and state levels. However, because they are fragile and can be easily broken, they are frequently improperly disposed of by users who don’t know about or choose not to follow the laws regarding proper disposal.
In 2000, the EPA began regulating fluorescent bulbs as a Universal Waste. The Universal Waste Rule was created to encourage recycling and proper disposal of certain common hazardous wastes by reducing the regulatory burden on businesses and individuals that generate these wastes. The ultimate goal was to reduce the amount of hazardous materials, such as mercury, in the municipal solid waste (MSW) stream. Under this rule, all Universal Waste must go to a permitted Treatment, Storage, and Disposal Facility (TSDF) or permitted dangerous waste recycling facility. (EcoLights Northwest is one such recycling facility).
During recycling, lamps are crushed and the various materials are separated under a continuous vacuum filtration process. The glass, aluminum and mercury-bearing phosphor powder is captured safely and recycled for use in other products.
Virtually every component of a fluorescent lamp can be recycled, including metal end caps, lamp glass, and mercury phosphor powder. The recycled glass can be used as feedstock in the manufacture of glass products, or as cement aggregate. The aluminum end caps are recycled as metal scrap. Retorting recovers mercury from the mercury phosphor powder, which, after further purification, is reused in thermometers, barometers, and electronic devices.
Tremendous progress has been made with regard to public awareness about Fluorescent bulbs and mercury. Still, we must remain vigilant about the dangers of mercury as we enjoy the energy and cost savings of fluorescent bulbs.
Today, all fluorescent lamps can and should be recycled. Those who wish to dispose of their fluorescent lights in an environmentally responsible way have many lamp recycling options to choose from based on the volume of lamps and the frequency of their recycling needs.
For directions on what to do if you break a Fluorescent bulb,
Starting January 1, 2013, it will be illegal for businesses and residents to throw mercury-containing lights in the trash. EcoLights has the information on the law and what it means for you.
All fluorescent tubes and compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) contain small amounts of mercury. Nationwide, only about 25% of the 680 million lights discarded each year are recycled. The remainder is disposed of in solid waste landfills and incinerators. In Washington this represents over 15 million lamps per year.