Why should you recycle fluorescent lamps?
Currently, all mercury-containing lamps are prohibited from the waste stream by the Mercury Management Act. This includes the green-tipped lamps that are marketed as “low-mercury.” Since energy-efficient lamps contain small amounts of mercury, they need to be handled and disposed of properly. Fortunately, recycling these lamps is inexpensive and easy to do. Safe disposal of these products is important for regulatory compliance, employee safety, and protecting human health and the environment.
How do fluorescent lamps get recycled?
If you only need to dispose of small quantities of compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) or other mercury containing lamps, your local transfer station, DPW, or town hall may offer a municipal recycling option for small businesses. Many retail establishments, including Home Depot, Whole Foods, Aubuchon Hardware, and others offer free take-back programs for most types of lamps. Please call these locations in advance to ensure they will take the types and quantities of lamps you have.
For larger quantities of lamps, you can work directly with a lamp recycler. Area recycling companies can provide FedEx mail-in programs, on-site pick up or other options for the safe and proper collection and recycling of your lamps. To find a hauler or processor for lamps in your area, search the RecyclingWorks database.
Intact fluorescent bulbs are handled under the Universal Waste Rule (pdf) which eases the restrictions on their handling, storage and transportation to facilitate recycling. Broken bulbs are considered hazardous waste and require additional handling.
Boxes of bulbs are picked up and delivered to a recycler where they are handled properly to capture the mercury and recycle the other components of the bulbs.
What happens after fluorescent lamps are recycled?
The lamps are 100% recyclable. The metal cap and the glass component get recycled in the standard glass and metal recycling process. The captured mercury is handled safely and sent to processors who treat it and make it available for use in new mercury-containing products.
Learn about recycling other materials
For more information on other commonly recycled materials visit these pages:
- Find out how to start or improve your own recycling program.
- Find a hauler or processor for recyclable materials in your area, search our Recycler Database.
- Find out how you can purchase recycled products, check out our Buying Recycled Products section.
- For more information on recycling in Massachusetts check out the MassDEP Factsheet: Where does it all go?
- Learn about Massachusetts Waste Bans
- For the latest information on topics ranging from regulatory requirements to guidance on cleaning up broken bulbs to permitted lamp recyclers, visit the Mercury Lamps page on the MassDEP website.
- Download Universal Waste Regulations (pdf)
- Download MassDEP compliance fact sheets
- Download Guide for cleaning up broken fluorescent bulbs