Careful recycling of fluorescent tube bulbs prevents the release of mercury into the environment and allows for the reuse of glass, metals and other materials that make up fluorescent lights. Businesses can take the following steps to start a recycling program:
Step 1: Survey Your Facility
Check to see where fluorescent bulbs are located and how many are in the facility. Create a record of how often you change the lamps and how many you are disposing of each month or year. Decide who will be the main handler of the lamps. Inform your employees of your decision to recycle all fluorescent lamps and the dangers of mercury spillage if a bulb breaks. Post clean up procedures on the employee bulletin board.
Step 2: Select a Recycler or Alternative Method for Disposing of Your Bulbs
Choose a recycler who is in compliance with the EPA regulations for recycling of fluorescent tubes. Check with them for pricing and get more than one quote for your needs. Investigate if their customer service is timely, flexible and willing to work with your firm. Ask how they dispose or recycle the bulbs? Also, your lamp distributor may offer a recycling service for their customers; or a cleaning company/electrical contractor may be in compliance with state and federal regulations to recycle your bulbs.
Step 3: Storage and Procedure for Used Fluorescent Lamps
Your company should have a special designated area that is dry and safe from breakage. Notify your employees of whom to call when lights burn out.
Used fluorescent lights can be stored in their original boxes in a way that avoids breakage until they are ready to be recycled. The containers should be free of any evidence of leakage, spillage or damage that can cause a mercury leak. Do not tape or rubber band the bulbs together. Seal storage boxes with 3 inch PVC tape and mark the boxes “Waste Lamps” or “Used Lamps”.
Create procedures for managing broken lamps. The EPA Mercury Web site provides detailed instructions for cleaning up broken fluorescent tubes. Learn about how to clean up broken lamps by visiting EPA’s Mercury Web site.
Step 4: Options and Procedures Recycling Lamps
The size of your facility and number of waste lamps generated determines the type of pickup for your organization. These options are as follows:
Dedicated Pick-up – It may be cost effective to an organization when the facility has generated enough waste lamps to fill a truck load on a request basis or once a month pickup.
Mail-In or Box Program – This option is for recycling a small amount of waste bulbs. The recycler can provide a container or you can purchase containers on line to fill with used waste lamps. When the container is full, it can be sent to the recycler via a prepaid ground mail shipment program.
Milk-Run – This is a very common method. The Recycler schedules a number of pickups from you. These runs are normally run on a set schedule and normally will have a contract agreement.
Self-Transport – This option is if you generate a small amount of waste lamps, can transport and are in close proximity to the recycle facility. Lamp recyclers can provide transport boxes.
Step 5: Record and Track Data
You should obtain and maintain a copy on file of the recyclers’ “Certificate of Recycling.” state and federal regulations so you have verification that your lamps were recycled in accordance with the Universal Waste Rule.
Step 6: Include Recycling Costs in Your Annual Budget
Depending on the type of lamp, quantities and transportation, recycling costs vary. It is best to call for at least three quotes. The following price ranges are typical: Tubes – 4¢ to 12¢ per linear foot; High Intensity Discharges – $1.50 – $2.00; Compact Fluorescent Lamps – 50¢ – $1.00