Fluorescent lights and some other types of lights and lamps contain toxic chemicals and fall under the dangerous waste regulations. Find out why universal waste management is the easier, preferred waste option for disposing of lights and lamps and how it works.
If you have a small number of mercury-lights to recycle, you can take them to a LightRecycle collection center.
If you are a business that generates and manages dangerous waste and universal waste, then you are considered both a dangerous waste generator and a universal waste handler. Whether you are a generator, a handler, or you fit both categories, you are responsible for properly managing your waste on site and after it leaves your site.
Are my lamps universal waste?
You can manage any type of lamp that designates as dangerous waste as universal waste.
How can I tell if my lamps are dangerous waste?
When determining if used lamps are dangerous waste:
- Assume they are a dangerous waste.
- Sample and test to determine if they are dangerous waste.
- Use manufacturer’s information, material-safety-data sheets, and other available information to determine toxicity.
Storing and labeling
Because glass bulbs are easily broken, universal waste rules for lights and lamps require specific handling procedures.
Store lamps in structurally sound containers, such as cardboard boxes or fiber drums. Keep containers closed when not adding lamps. Immediately clean up any broken lamps and store debris in a closed container.
Clearly label individual lamps or containers that are storing lamps with the following:
- The words "universal waste lamps," "waste lamps," or "used lamps."
- The accumulation start date. Used and unused lamps become waste on the date you decide to discard them.
You can accumulate lamps for one year from the date you start generating. An extension to the one-year accumulation limit is allowed if the facility needs more time to collect enough items to facilitate proper recovery, treatment, or disposal. Document your accumulation. You can do this by marking the first date of accumulation.
Recycling and disposing of universal waste lamps
Do not crush lamps if handling as universal waste.
Send universal waste lamps to another handler or a destination facility. Another handler includes any business that is already managing universal waste, government-sponsored collections, or hazardous waste management firms. All universal waste must go to a destination facility.
Specific requirements for mercury lamps
Some local governments may have landfill bans on disposal of mercury-containing lamps or other mercury-containing items. Check with your local health department, solid waste agency, or landfill for specific requirements, as well as recycling or disposal options.
LightRecycle Washington is a program that collects mercury-containing lights at locations around the state. Consumers and businesses can recycle up to 10 lights per day at no cost. This may be an option for disposal if you have a small quantity of lights. Find out more about the LightRecycle program.
Why do we care about lamps?
Nationally, about 680 million lamps are disposed of per year. Most are sent to solid waste disposal facilities. These lamps can contain mercury or lead. Although fluorescent lamps contain toxic mercury and should be recycled when they wear out, we encourage people to continue using them because they use less electricity and last longer than other types of lighting.