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Air Indoor Resources - Mercury

Fluorescent Lamps & Batteries

Fluorescent lamps are one mercury-containing device whose use is warranted due to the fact they are 3 to 4 times more energy efficient than incandescent bulbs in converting electricity to visible light. In 1995, the Environmental Protection Agency estimated that over 500 million fluorescent lamps went into landfills in the United States annually containing over 30,000 metric tons of mercury contaminated waste.

Residentially, fluorescent lamps and button cell batteries are exempt under the rules; however, these items can be dropped off at one of 64 Florida’s Household Hazardous Waste Collection Centers throughout the state.

In 1999, fluorescent lamps were added to the Universal Waste Rules(PDF) for storing, transporting, and collecting hazardous waste lamps.

Commercially, any industry, institution, or public facility disposing of more than ten (10) spent lamps per month are required to arrange for these lamps to go to a permitted-mercury reclamation facility. The term lamps include fluorescent, mercury vapor, neon, metal halide, and high-pressure sodium lamps.

Spent lamps should be stored in a manner so they will not break. Spent lamps stored for recycling are required to be labeled or mark clearly with the words: Spent Mercury-Containing Lamps for Recycling; or Universal Waste Mercury Lamps; or Waste (or Used) Mercury Lamps.

The following storage protocol is recommended to prevent breakage of lamps:

  • Store intact lamps in the same box new lamps arrived in, a fiber or a container specifically designed for lamp storage that can normally be obtained from recyclers or distributors;
  • Lamps should be stored upright. Metal halide, mercury vapor, or high intensity discharge lamps should be wrapped and packaged individually;
  • Use cardboard or some kind of spacer in the container to prevent breakage;
  • Do not pack too many lamps in one container or too few without adequate amount of packing material;
  • Do not tape lamps together since many recyclers will not accept them;
  • Store containers in a designated area away from normal traffic;
  • Do not store lamps outside; and
  • Immediately secure (with tape or other means) the box once full.

The DEP has also issued a decision letter titled, “Guidance on the Management of Mercury-Containing Waste Generated from a Broken Mercury-Containing Lamp or Devoice Spill Cleanup.” (PDF)

If conducting a complete relamping of a building, it may be frugal to test the f luorescent and high pressure sodium lamps to see if they pass EPA’s Toxic Characteristic Leaching Process (TCLP) test for mercury and lead. If the mercury is under 0.2 mg/l and the lead is under 5 mg/l, the lamps are considered non-hazardous and can be tossed in the trash. Some companies have already evaluated their lamps for TCLP and not all lamps are considered hazardous for mercury found in the powdered phosphor inside the lamp or lead on the end nodes of the lamp.

Since 1996, alkaline batteries no longer contain mercury therefore; alkaline batteries can go directly into the domestic trash. However, button cell batteries, also called mercuric oxide batteries, commonly used in small electronic equipment, such as : watches, hearing aids, calculators, pace makers, digital thermometers, odometers, speedometers and some toys and games do contain mercury and should go for recycling. Currently, there are no button cell batteries sold in the United States that does not contain at least some mercury in them.

Contact Information

Wendy Murphy
325 West Gaines Street
Suite, 1054
Tallahassee, FL 32399
Phone: (850) 245-9295