Lamps are not a major source of mercury pollution, but the improper disposal of large numbers of mercury-added lamps may add to mercury in the environment. The same is true of burning hazardous wastes or incineration of disposed materials.
The best way to prevent the release of mercury from lighting products is to recycle lamps and not dispose of them in the trash. Recycling lamps captures the mercury, allowing it to be reused or processed safely.
Convenient lamp recycling options are available for residential consumers in most areas through both private and public programs. Many local governments collect lamps as part of their hazardous waste collection programs. Examples of commercial/retail take-back include the following:
- Many Home Depot, IKEA, and Lowes stores provide free CFL recycling.
- Smaller, more localized outlets such as Ace Hardware, True Value, Menards, and Aubuchon Hardware may offer CFL and fluorescent tube recycling services – typically at no cost – either on their own or in association with utility-run programs (see below).
- Utility-run collection programs exist throughout or in parts in many states. Operated by utilities or efficiency partnerships, these programs pay for the CFL recycling and recruit local retailers to offer collection.
- Many local governments operated Household Hazardous Waste sites or collective events and accept CFLs, fluorescent tubes, and HID lamps either for free or minimal cost to recycle.
- Visit Earth911 to locate both retail and local government locations to recycle CFLs and fluorescent tubes.
- Maine, Vermont, and Washington State require stewardship programs or regulate the disposal of mercury containing products including CFLs, fluorescent tubes, and HID (e.g., mercury vapor) lamps.
- Information on disposing High Intensity Discharge (HID) lamps such as mercury vapor, metal halide, or high pressure sodium can be obtained from local hazardous waste authorities, household hazardous waste collection sites in your area, or by contacting the Association or Lighting and Mercury Recyclers: www.ALMR.org.