Mercury Minimization / Fluorescent Lamps

Usually used as indoor lighting; the most common is the tube style, which serves as overhead lighting in offices and businesses. A newer style is the compact globe shape for a variety of home or office use. Average life: 4 years.

Amount of Mercury: From less than 10 milligrams to 50 milligrams per tube, depending on size and model.

Alternative Devices: Fluorescent lamps are an excellent lighting choice because they use up to 50% less energy than other lamps. This reduces the amount of mercury produced at the power plant, where mercury is given off by coal and oil combustion. Thus, even though incandescent bulbs contain no mercury, their inefficient energy use results in more mercury being released to the environment. However, it is essential that fluorescent lamps are disposed of properly, so as not to allow the mercury to enter the environment. The best disposal method is recycling.

A new type of long-life fluorescent lamp has been developed which contains such a small amount of mercury that it is no longer considered a hazardous waste. The typical fluorescent lamp has a lot of "extra" mercury in it because mercury loses its effectiveness over time due to physical and chemical reactions. This new lamp has a buffering system that blocks these physical and chemical reactions so that the lamp contains less than 10 mg of mercury. These lamps should still be recycled.

How to Locate the Device: Fluorescent lamps are located in offices and businesses. The most common style is the long, skinny tube used in overhead indoor lighting. Compact globe styles are also used in homes and offices.

Safe Removal: Caution should be taken to avoid lamp breakage. Breakage may result in mercury released into the environment. Lamp recyclers also generally require that the lamps arrive unbroken. The best way to protect them is putting old lamps into the boxes the new lamps came in or boxes from a lamp recycler. Most bulbs are removed in one of two ways:

The bulbs are very delicate and should be carefully removed and then placed in boxes for disposal. Often, mercury recyclers rent or provide cylindrical cardboard containers for fluorescent bulbs.

Safe Disposal:


Find out whether you must follow any record keeping and other regulatory requirements, depending on the amount of hazardous waste your business generates. Click here for OEPA Pollution Prevention.