Managing Spent Fluorescent Lamps
Many businesses aren’t aware that it is illegal to throw fluorescent lamps into a garbage can or dumpster. Other companies are aware, but find it difficult to sort through complex environmental regulations to determine what they need to do.
All fluorescent lighting — even when it is marketed as a “green” product — contains mercury, which can leach into groundwater and cause neurological problems in children and adults. To help companies manage this hazardous waste stream, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has established Universal Waste Regulations that streamline the management requirements for fluorescent lighting that will be recycled.
Facilities have a choice when it comes to managing their fluorescent light waste. They can manage it as a universal waste and recycle the lights, or they can dispose of their lights as a fully regulated Resource Conservation Recovery Act (RCRA) hazardous waste. One option that is not permissible is tossing the lighting into a dumpster. The EPA can levy fines up to $93,500 per lamp when they discover them in a dumpster or garbage can.
Managing fluorescent lighting as a hazardous waste means that the weight of the waste will count toward your RCRA generator status. It also means that if your facility is a small or large quantity generator, the waste must ship with a manifest, and it typically needs to be transported offsite within 90 or 180 days.
By contrast, managing fluorescent lighting as a universal waste means that the lamps can be stored onsite for up to one year. The light tubes and bulbs must be kept intact, and must be sent to a facility that will recycle the waste lamps.
Prepaid lamp recycling programs help companies facilitate fluorescent bulb recycling programs. Boxes that hold an average of 72 (T-8 size) bulbs cost about $120 and include a prepaid shipping label, processing (recycling) of the lamps and a certificate of recycling for recordkeeping purposes.
Fluorescent lamp recycling diverts waste from landfills, and modern recycling techniques allow the entire bulb — glass, metal and mercury — to be recycled into new bulbs. It also helps small and mid-sized companies avoid the expense of handling and managing fluorescent lamps as hazardous wastes or the fines associated with non-compliance.
New Pig Corporation
1 Pork Avenue, PO Box 304, Tipton, PA 16684-0304