Fluorescent lamps are specifically identified as “Universal Waste” in Virginia’s Hazardous Waste Management Regulations – Section 273.5. Therefore, if the lamps are being recycled, they are not subject to the more stringent reporting and handling procedures that are necessary when managing hazardous wastes. If not recycled, the hazardous waste regulations do apply. For more information see Virginia’s Universal Waste.
If a business is recycling lamps as universal waste, they still must handle spent lamps in a way which ensures that they do not break and they should have a way of distinguishing them from materials that are being managed as hazardous wastes (lamps should be labeled as universal waste). Keeping records that track where the lamps are recycled and how many lamps are recycled is always a good idea.
Businesses should also be careful to contract with trustworthy parties to ensure that their lamps are being properly recycled. If not properly recycled, the lamps could be considered hazardous waste and the business would be liable. View the list of vendors.
- Shipping – you can ship spent lamps through the US Mail. Lamp recycling vendors can supply pre-paid collection and shipping boxes. Many lamp suppliers will also provide this service, and you typically just use the same box that the lamps come in for collection.
- Collection- many lamp recycling vendors will come to your business and pick up your spent lamps when you have enough to make it worthwhile.
- Drum-Top Crushers – many vendors are now selling “drum-top crushing” units. The crushers, often called “bulb-eaters,” are affixed to the top of a 55-gallon drum, and they operate much like a food processor. The advantage of drum-top crushing is that it dramatically reduces the space required to store and manage spent lamps. For most units, a drum can hold more than 1,000 spent lamps. Drum crushing is specifically allowed by Virginia’s Universal Waste Rule; however, it may not be allowed in certain states. The units are designed to crush the lamps and segregate/filter the mercury vapor/powder. Click here for more on drum crushing.
Historically, less than 10 percent of all fluorescents bulbs are generated by individual households. This number will likely increase in coming years as more and more individual homes are switching to Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFL’s). CFL’s are 4 times more efficient than incandescent bulbs and they last for years (they save energy and money)!
The Virginia Waste Management Regulations provide for the exemption of “household hazardous wastes” (HHW). The regulation specifically identifies lamps as an item which can be thrown way if generated by a household.
HOWEVER! Although legal, disposal of hazardous materials as solid waste is not a good practice. Most Virginia localities sponsor some sort of “household hazardous wastes” collection days. Many others will even collect HHW year round. Almost of all of these HHW facilities and events will accept take fluorescent lamps for recycling.
So call your local waste management authority to find out when the next HHW collection is and if they accept fluorescents! You can also check this national directory of recycling that provides guidance on local government HHW – it’s called Earth 911. Need more information on which lamps contain mercury; NEWMOA lists some commonly used examples. You can also find additional information at Lamprecycle.org.
More on CFL’s
Where You Work
If you work in an office building, there’s bound to be fluorescent lighting. Ask your facility manager if they’re recycling. Download a poster and give it to them, and encourage them to join the statewide effort to encourage commercial property managers to recycle their lamps and to join the Virginia Fluorescent Lamp Recycling Challenge for Commercial Property Managers.
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Contact Keith Boisvert if you have additional questions.