Lighting and light bulbs can contain hazardous components so it is important to know how to dispose of each type.
Disposal of Fluorescent and Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs
Fluorescent and Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs (CFLs) contain mercury. In very small quantities, mercury won't necessarily do harm, but this depends on the amount of exposure, length of exposure and age, size and health of those who are exposed. Most of us have trace amounts of mercury in our bodies, for example from consuming certain types of fish, so we do not want to add to that. Taking care with household objects that contain mercury, such as some thermometers, thermostats and light bulbs, is important.
You have three options for disposal of fluorescent and compact fluorescent (CFLs) tubes, bulbs and any size of ballasts, all of which are considered hazardous waste:
- Donate unused bulbs to a charity or organization of your choice.
- Bring used bulbs to a City of Fort Lauderdale Household Hazardous Waste Drop-off Event.
- Return bulbs to a retailer which participates in a recycling program specifically for these types of bulbs. Home Depot, IKEA and Lowes, as well as lighting specialists, generally accept these bulbs for recycling.
In all cases, please wrap the bulbs carefully for transport. Use the original packaging, newspapers, towels or other soft materials to create padding. Do not simply put the bulbs in plastic bags, These do not provide enough protection from breakage.
If you break a bulb...
If you do break a fluorescent or CFL, follow these simple instructions for clean up provided by the EPA. Do not panic. According to a 2008 article in the scientific journal Environmental Health Perspectives, "CFLs typically contain from three to five milligrams of mercury—about one hundredth of the mercury content of the older thermostats that may still be found in some homes. [Further] only a tiny fraction of that is actually released when bulbs break... [and] it would take weeks for the amount of mercury vapor in the room to reach levels that would be hazardous to a child." Simply follow the instructions linked here to ensure your safety.
Disposal of Other Lighting
Lamps and lighting fixtures of all types should be donated to charity or the organization of your choice. Please remove old, burned out light bulbs first.
Light bulbs CANNOT be recycled in City of Fort Lauderdale carts and other containers. Incandescent, halogen and LED bulbs should be donated, if they still work, and placed in the garbage if they do not work.
Working with an electrician, lighting supplier or other contractor?
When planning your purchase or project, be sure to inquire about proper disposal of old lighting. Management and disposal by businesses of fluorescent light bulbs and other mercury-containing bulbs are regulated under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) Universal Waste Rule (UWR) and Subtitle C hazardous waste regulations. Visit the EPA website for more information.