Fluorescent Lamp Disposal

Fluorescent bulbs

Flourescent Lamp Disposal


Impact on the Environment

Fluorescent lamps and high intensity discharge (HID) lamps (including mercury vapor, high-pressure sodium, and metal halide bulbs) are the two most common types of lamps that use mercury. Both of these lamps are typically three to four times more efficient than incandescent lamps and can last up to 10 times longer. The use of energy-efficient mercury-containing lamps can play a significant role in decreasing the nation’s energy consumption. However, fluorescent lamps contain mercury which poses a threat to human health and the environment, even in small amounts. Mercury is a bio-accumulative toxin, which means that it accumulates in the food chain, and does not break down in the environment. While fluorescent lamps offer tremendous environmental advantages through energy savings, the disposal of used fluorescent lamps needs to be carried out properly to eliminate mercury emissions.

What are “Green Lamps”?

A number of manufacturers have started marketing fluorescent lamps with lower mercury content. These “Green” lamps can be identified by their green markings or green end caps. Green fluorescent lamps may not be disposed of in a landfill unless the generator can document that the waste is non-hazardous by using one of the methods described under proper disposal. Although the mercury level in many of these lamps is low enough to be non-hazardous, they still contain some mercury and the department encourages recycling rather than disposal. Small amounts of mercury add up, and even small amounts of mercury deposited into lakes and other water bodies can cause environmental and health concerns.  

Rules for Management/Disposal

Iowa businesses are prohibited from disposing of hazardous materials in a sanitary landfill. Other than “Green” lamps, fluorescent lamps typically are hazardous due to mercury levels. It is the legal responsibility of all waste generators to determine whether or not their solid waste is also a hazardous waste. Ideally you should purchase lamps that are both highly efficient and have low mercury content. Consider using fluorescent lamps whenever possible. The Toxicity Characteristic Leaching Procedure (TCLP) test, as outlined in SW-846, will determine if your lamps can be landfilled. Recycling may be more economical than testing.

So what are the choices for proper fluorescent lamp disposal?

Businesses and Institutions

    1. Manage the lamps as hazardous waste following all hazardous waste regulations.
    2. Recycle lamps
    3. Provide your solid waste agency with laboratory documentation that the lamps pass the toxicity characteristic leaching procedure, or TCLP. This is a laboratory analysis that determines if the mercury level is below the EPA regulatory limits of 0.2mg/L.

Number 2 is the easiest and least expensive way to be in compliance.  The CB Household Hazardous Waste Regional Collection facility, located at the Cherokee County Landfill, accepts all types of fluorescent lamps & HID lamps.
There are now two ways for us to help you manage your fluorescents and HIDs.  Call to make an appointment to bring them to us, or a time for us to come and pick them up at your place of business. For pricing and to set up an appointment, call us at 712-225-3749 between the hours of 7:30 – 4:00, Monday through Friday.