Recycle Your Bulbs and Reduce Your Liability

Many states are requiring businesses and individuals to recycle used light bulbs.   If you are currently located in AR, CA, CO, CT, DE, IL, LA, MA, ME, MN, MO, NE, NH, NY, PA, RI, VT, WA, or WI, it is illegal to throw used bulbs into the garbage and landfills. With this list growing every month, companies need to enact a formal procedure to prove they are compliant.

Why is it so important to recycle used light bulbs? These bulbs contain mercury, which is extremely hazardous waste and is a major health risk for humans and animals that come in contact with it. The mercury from the bulbs are introduced into the environment through breakage and leakage. Once the mercury is introduced into the environment, it can be converted into an organic form that accumulates into living organisms and contaminates the food chain.

To help prevent the release of mercury from the light bulbs, they should be taken to a recycler before they break. Recyclers can recover the mercury and other components to reuse.

So besides the fact that broken light bulbs will contaminate the environment, why should you recycle? Well that’s a good question. There are legal consequences in several states for throwing light bulbs away in the trash. By law you may be required to manage spent fluorescent lamps. On January 6, 2000, the Federal Environmental Protection Agency’s regulation on spent fluorescent lamps took effect, which requires most businesses to recycle spent fluorescent lamps. Under CERCLA, there is no small quantity exemption from the liability for future site clean-up if mercury contamination shows up at a disposal facility where mercury-containing lamps have been sent.

Another positive to bulb recycling is that it is actually very cost effective. It’s estimated that the cost to recycle a fluorescent lamp is less than 1% of the cost ownership of the lamp.

The Bulb Recycling Process
Once light bulbs are used and collected, they are sent off to a recycling facility where the facilities’ dry-processing system crushes and sorts the lamps into their separate components. The recycling facilities usually use a vacuum system to ensure that toxins (such as mercury) from the bulbs are not released into the air when they are crushed.

After the bulbs are crushed and their components are separated, the individual components are then reused for various projects.

The glass that is obtained from the bulbs does not loose any of its durability or quality when it is recycled. It is therefore used to create new glass items. An interesting fact is that in is required that all newly manufactured glass products be made out of at least 35% recycled glass. The mercury can be reused to make new products that contain the chemical. And the aluminum that is obtained from the lamps’ end-caps are used to make new end-caps and other aluminum products.

How to Recycle Your Bulbs
Many cities and states are implementing recycling drop-offs for light bulbs. However, National Waste Associates’ offers clients an easy to use box program.   This program, which is available in various box sizes, is specifically designed to meet the needs of multi-location companies to help them stay compliant with federal, state and local government regulations, while also reducing the exposure of storing hazardous materials at their facilities. National Waste Associates understands the operational constraints of multi-location companies and designed the program to be scalable, easy to implement, manage, and track across a broad spectrum.

The following types of lamps can be recycled:

• Straight fluorescent

• Compacts (CFLs), u-shape and circular

• High-intensity discharge (HID)

• Neon

• Shatterproof

• Other specialty types

• Debris

For more information, contact National Waste Associates at 888-692-5005 or