The handling, storage, and disposal of mercury-containing, energy efficient lights such as linear fluorescent, compact fluorescent, and high intensity discharge lamps are subject to state and local laws. For businesses, either the Federal Universal Waste Rule (40 CFR 273) or a state’s version of the Universal Waste Rule applies when the volume of lamps (and other types of regulated waste) exceeds a certain threshold. Recycling is usually the only financially viable option for businesses or institutions that generate large numbers of waste lamps to comply with the Rule.
Mercury-containing lamps generated by households and small businesses, however, are not always subject to legal restrictions regarding their disposal. But state laws vary and some states, such as California, Maine, New Hampshire, Minnesota, Vermont and Massachusetts, prohibit all mercury-containing lamps from being discarded in the solid waste stream.
Many local ordinances require recycling of mercury-containing products, including lighting. It’s best to check with your municipality to understand whether there are local requirements addressing mercury-containing waste disposal.
Members of NEMA’s lamp manufacturing section encourage recycling of all mercury-containing lamps, regardless of whether recycling is required by law. This site contains information on how to find collection sites and recycling services in your area.