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How to Recycle Fluorescent Lamps


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 the lamps do not break and they should have a way of distinguishing lamps from materials that are being managed as hazardous wastes (spent lamps must 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 a 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 to pick up your spent lamps when you have enough to make it worthwhile.
  • Drum-Top CrushersMany 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. For more on drum-top crushing in Virginia see these regulations and this supporting information.  For further information, go to Lamp Crushing Guidance.


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 (CFLs).  CFLs are 4 times more efficient than incandescent bulbs and they last for years (they save energy and money)!

HOWEVER!  Although legal, disposal of hazardous materials as solid waste is not a good practice.  DEQ's Recycling and Litter Prevention Program offers addition information on household hazardous waste (HHW).  Most Virginia localities sponsor some sort of “household hazardous wastes” collection.  Many others will even collect HHW year round.  Almost all of these HHW facilities and events will accept 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 and

Contact Keith Boisvert if you have additional questions.


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

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