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Fluorescent Lamps

Why use fluorescent lamps?

Although fluorescent lamps contain mercury, the use of fluorescents for lighting actually decreases the amount of mercury released to the environment! Today’s fluorescent lamps are 5 times more efficient than conventional, incandescent lighting. In fact, power generation is one of the most significant contributors of mercury to the environment, especially in states where a large proportion of energy on grid comes from coal.  Over the average life of a fluorescent lamp, 400 mg of mercury would be emitted to the environment as a result of the energy required to power an incandescent bulb, whereas use of a fluorescent lamp results in the emission of less than 80 mg.  The consumer should also consider the enormous cost savings that result from the use of fluorescent versus incandescent lamps.

Why recycle lamps?

In this country alone, more than 500 million fluorescent lamps are replaced.  Each lamp contains, on average, approximately 10 mg of mercury vapor.  If not recycled, mercury will be released to the environment.  Much of the mercury will at least reach a landfill, but many lamps are broken in transit; and a significant proportion of solid waste goes to incinerators, where the mercury is vaporized and dispersed to the air. Ten milligrams does not sound like much; however, it takes very little mercury to contaminate a body of water – some studies indicate that just 1 gram (or the quantity contained in 100 lamps) could contaminate a 20-acre water body.

In 2004, the total lamp recycling rate was only 26%, indicating that more than 370 million lamps were not recycled, potentially releasing more than 10,000 pounds of mercury to the environment! Recycling reclaims the mercury, glass and metals, saving raw materials and energy for other uses. For businesses, it saves money by avoiding long-term liabilities from spills and exposure, reduces the costs associated with proper disposal as a hazardous waste; and keeps them in compliance with DEQ regulations.

For more information, visit

Recycle your Fluorescent Lamps

Featured Topics

Free CFL recycling is now offered by IKEA, Lowe's, Batteries Plus and Home Depot stores. 

Many local governments now offer CFL recycling through Household Hazardous Waste Collection events or at drop-off sites

EPA Study on Mercury Lamp Drumtop Crushing

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Virginia Department of
Environmental Quality
P.O. Box 1105
Richmond, VA 23218
(804) 698-4000

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