Fluorescent Lamps and Tubes Must Be Recycled or Disposed as Hazardous Waste
According to California law, all fluorescent lamps and tubes are considered hazardous waste in California when they are discarded because they contain mercury. (Title 22, division 4.5, chapter 11, section 66261.50)
Fluorescent lamps and tubes:
- Fluorescent tubes, including low mercury tubes.
- Compact fluorescents, including low mercury lamps.
High Intensity Discharge (HID) Lamps:
- Metal halide lamps, such as floodlights for large indoor and outdoor areas and gymnasiums.
- Sodium lamps, such as those sometimes used as security lighting and outdoor floodlights.
- Mercury vapor lamps, such as those sometimes used for street lighting.
All fluorescent lamps and tubes must be recycled, or taken to a household hazardous waste disposal facility, a universal waste handler (e.g., storage facility or broker), or an authorized recycling facility. (Title 22, division 4.5, chapter 23, section 66273.8) (The law requiring that fluorescent lamps be recycled or taken to a household hazardous waste disposal facility, a universal waste handler, or an authorized recycling facility has been in effect since February 9, 2006.)
See a list of all wastes banned from the trash.
When mercury-containing lamps or tubes are placed in the trash and collected for disposal, the lamps or tubes are broken and mercury is released to the environment. Mercury vapors from broken lamps or tubes can be absorbed through the lungs into the bloodstream. People who are particularly close to the breakage are especially at risk. Mercury from broken lamps and tubes can also be washed by rain water into waterways.
According to a report entitled Household Universal Waste Generation in California, August 2002, there were 15,555,556 fluorescent lamps sold in California in the year 2001. According to survey results published in the report, only 0.21% of these lamps were recycled.