Management of Waste Fluorescent Lamps
Waste fluorescent lamps contain toxic mercury and lead and
are usually hazardous wastes. Tanning facilities should recycle their hazardous
waste fluorescent lamps rather than dispose of them in landfills.
Why are waste lamps regulated?
Waste Lamps can be regulated as hazardous wastes because they contain
toxic mercury and lead. If these lamps are burned or thrown into landfills, the
mercury and lead in them can be released into the environment, where contamination
problems may occur. Two types of lamps are of concern:
- Fluorescent lamps
- High- and Low-pressure mercury vapor lamps
These lamps contain mercury in concentrations that can exceed the toxicity
characteristic leaching procedure's (TCLP) limit. (The TCLP test is a common
laboratory test used to determine if solid waste contains harmful concentrations of
certain pollutants.) Every tanning business generates waste lamps that could become
a hazardous waste problem if not properly handled. The Department of Natural
Resources (DNR) has developed guidance encouraging lamp recycling that protects the
environment while reducing the regulatory burden for managing waste lamps. This
- Allows waste lamp generators to safely store and recycle their lamps without strictly
following hazardous waste regulations; and,
- Does not permit businesses to dispose of waste lamps in sanitary landfills if the waste
lamps contain heavy metals that exceed hazardous waste limits.
Waste lamps that aren't recycled are subject to hazardous waste regulations that
usually require storage, transport and other licenses or approvals from the state DNR.
What should I do with my waste lamps?
Place waste lamps in the cardboard sleeve or box in which replacement tubes arrived,
then store the lamps where they can't be broken, such as in a safe closet or
basement. Mark the area and containers where waste lamps are stored as a hazardous
waste storage area so people don't accidentally throw trash on the tubes and break them.
If tubes are broken, they should be stored in a heavy plastic bag placed inside a
rigid container. If a lamp recycler will take broken lamps, they may go to the
recycler. Otherwise, broken lamps should be managed as hazardous waste.
Waste lamp generators may contract with a solid or hazardous waste transporter to move
lamps to a recycler. Recyclers can be found in your yellow pages under Recycling
Centers or through the Bulb link on the bottom of the page. Generators also may safely
transport their lamps to the recycler. Generators may accumulate waste lamps from
several locations in a central facility to ease transport and recycling. As long as
waste lamps are going to a recycler in Wisconsin, it's not necessary to fill out a
hazardous waste manifest for transportation in Wisconsin, although it's encouraged.
If these wastes are being shipped to or through other states, then the transportation
rules of those states should be checked. Waste lamp generators also do not need to
fill out annual reports for their waste lamps. This policy does not relieve
generators of other hazardous wastes from any hazardous waste requirements.
When lamps are replaced, ballasts also are frequently replaced. Ballasts are
heavy metal boxes associated with fluorescent fixtures that regulate the flow of
electricity. Ballasts manufactured before 1979 may contain PCB's (polychlorinated
biphenyls). PCB's in our environment are toxic chemicals that pose a health risk to
people and wildlife. If a ballast is marked "No PCB's," assume it doesn't
contain PCB's. If the ballast isn't marked, assume it contains PCB's. Please
call the DNR for information on management and disposal of PCB ballasts. (DNR
recycling - 608-267-7566. )
To locate bulb recyclers in
your area check the DNR website http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/Recycling/bulbs.html.
(exit DHS) This list is not meant to be complete or an endorsement; it is a list of services known to
The DNR website also has
further publications available for additional knowledge on lamp/bulb
Last Revised: April 26, 2012