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Fluorescent bulbs and lamps provide lighting to the majority of office buildings, manufacturing facilities, restaurants, schools, hospitals, shopping centers and a multitude of other businesses.  Each year almost 700 million Fluorescent bulbs are discarded that should be recycled. The Environmental Protection Agency, combined with national and statewide efforts such as WasteCare’s recycling program, has created fluorescent lamp and bulb recycling programs to find a solution for this problem.

Recycling Benefits 

What are the benefits of recycling fluorescent bulbs and lamps?

  • Keeps mercury containing products out of waste disposal streams

  • Recycling is the preferred disposal method in most states for mercury-containing lamps

  • Consistent with solid waste disposal bans in some states

Recycling fluorescent bulbs and lamps is especially important due to the component of mercury, which is essential for many energy-efficient light bulbs.  The cost of recycling these bulbs and lamps is relatively small compared to the cost savings from using energy efficient lighting. Traditionally, fluorescent lamps are up to 10 times more efficient than other bulbs.

Fluorescent lamps reduce energy consumption creating a monetary savings. Reducing energy use also cuts down on power plant emissions of mercury and other emissions that contribute to global climate change, acid rain and smog.

Coming to Terms 

To understand recycling needs for fluorescent bulbs and lamps it is important  to understand these terms, as defined by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

In addition to the environmental benefits, Fluorescent light bulbs are energy efficient and they are a cost effective lighting alternative to traditional incandescent lamps. They utilize 75% less energy which also means they can reduce overall costs by 75%, and they last up to 10 times longer than incandescent lamps.

Recycling Efforts Today 

Millions of mercury-containing fluorescent bulbs are discarded each year.  Most of these bulbs are still discarded with municipal solid waste that is ultimately land filled or incinerated. These disposal methods can lead to a release of elemental mercury into the environment through breakage and leakage and ultimately contaminate the food chain.  These bulbs should, therefore, be recycled after they burn out.

Almost all pieces of a fluorescent bulb can be recycled. The metal end caps, glass tubing, mercury and even the phosphor powder can be separated and reused. The recycled glass can be remanufactured into other glass products. The mercury can be recycled into new fluorescent light bulbs and other mercury-containing devices.

Although Fluorescent bulbs are beneficial from a cost standpoint, the main drawback is that when they are discarded in the trash they break easily and mercury is released into the environment.  The EPA strongly encourages the recycling of all mercury-containing fluorescent bulbs after they burn out.

Getting started 

Incredibly, 70% of the mercury lamps used by business are not being recycled. These lamps and bulbs can and should be recycled by following basic guidelines that are set in place by regulatory agencies.   

The EPA  strongly encourages the recycling of all Fluorescent light bulbs. Recycling these light bulbs will reduce the chance that mercury ends up in the environment.

You can easily check with your state or local environmental regulatory agency to find out more about Fluorescent Bulb Recycling. There are only a few states remaining that are still going through the regulatory hurdles, but all others have  information readily available that support Fluorescent Bulb Recycling Programs.  

If your waste agency incinerates its garbage, you should search a wider geographic area for proper disposal options. Never send a fluorescent light bulb or any other mercury-containing product to an incinerator.

Tools for businesses 

Purchase an EPA recommended bulb or lamp crusher or participate in one of WasteCare’s bulb and lamp recycling program.  (WasteCare’s Bulb Crusher models have been categorized by several of the EPA regions under Recycling “Best  Practices”.) In addition,  WasteCare’s Lamp / Bulb Return Program is available for all Fluorescent lamps and HID bulbs, whether crushed or uncrushed.

Contact WasteCare to find out more about Fluorescent Bulb Crushers or to set up a recycling service program and know that your efforts are aiding mercury reduction and the environment. Do your part and recycle.

Contributor / Editor - Matt Kennedy - Refer questions to info@wastecare.com

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