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Disposal of Lamps Containing Mercury

Mercury-added bulbs manufactured after November 30, 2003 will bear a label, which states, "Contains Mercury," or it will have the symbol "Hg" within a circle on the lamp (Hg is the scientific symbol for mercury on the periodic table of elements). This signifies that the bulb contains mercury. Any mercury-containing bulb, regardless of the amount of mercury, cannot be discarded in the trash. Bulbs containing mercury should be handled as hazardous ("universal") waste, stored carefully prior to disposal to avoid breakage, and properly disposed. Although fluorescent and HID bulbs contain mercury, they are more energy efficient than incandescent or halogen bulbs (for more information on energy efficient lighting, visit Efficiency Vermont-- off-site link --). By requiring less energy, these bulbs reduce the amount of pollution from energy production, which includes the emission of mercury (from coal combustion). The information provided below will:

Identifying Bulbs that Contain Mercury

The following types of bulbs contain mercury:

  • Fluorescent, compact fluorescent, black lights.
  • High intensity discharge bulbs (HID). These bulbs are commonly used in security, outdoor and warehouse lighting. HID lighting is becoming popular for indoor use in commercial settings. The following are HID bulbs:
    • mercury vapor
    • metal halide
    • high pressure sodium
  • HID lighting is also used in vehicle headlamps. HID headlamps can be identified by their characteristic bluish-white tint when lit. Some halogen bulb manufacturers are now applying a blue coating to their bulbs which makes them look like HID bulbs when lit, however, halogen bulbs do not contain mercury (click here for more information on mercury use in automobiles).
  • Ultraviolet bulbs
  • Neon bulbs

For information on Mercury Use in Lightbulbs see:


Alternatives Available

There are no non-mercury fluorescent or HID bulbs available at this time. Green tip or low-mercury fluorescent lighting contains less mercury, but still cannot be placed in the trash. For more information on energy efficient, non-mercury lighting, such as LEDs, please visit Efficiency Vermont's web site: www.efficiencyvermont.com.

Disposal Information

Any mercury-containing bulb, regardless of the amount of mercury, should not be discarded in the trash and should be handled as a hazardous ("universal") waste and stored carefully to avoid breakage. Labeled mercury-containing products are banned from landfills. Disposal options differ depending on whether the bulbs are from household use or business or other non-household use.

Households and Small Businesses
Mercury-containing bulbs cannot be placed in the regular trash. Many retailers of lighting products such as hardware stores, supermarkets, home improvement centers, and lighting stores offer FREE recycling of fluorescent bulbs. Any number of CFLs will be accepted and there is a limit of ten or fewer of other bulbs (such as lineal tubes) per visit. So bring in your burned-out fluorescent and other mercury-containing bulbs today to a retail or municipal collection location near you.

If you don’t have a participating retailer in your area or if you have larger quantities of non-CFL bulbs, check with your local municipality or solid waste district for recycling options.


Small businesses may be able to dispose of smaller quantities of spent bulbs at retail or municipal collection locations or check with your local municipality or solid waste district for recycling options.

Small businesses may be able to dispose of spent bulbs at town or solid waste district collection events. Businesses who handle larger volumes of bulbs from change-outs or retrofits can contact a local electrical wholesaler who offers bulb recycling to their customers or contact a commercial lamp recycler (a business that collects and recycles mercury, glass and metal components) for disposal. If it is not possible to use any of the previous disposal options, bulbs should be disposed of through a licensed hazardous waste transporter. Additional information is available in the Lamp Fact Sheet.

Bulb Storage and Handling

  • Store bulbs in an area and in a way that will prevent them from breaking, such as in boxes the bulbs came in or in boxes supplied by a bulb recycler.
  • Do not break or crush bulbs because mercury may be released. If a bulb is accidentally broken, see Lamp Fact Sheet for bulb breakage clean-up procedure.


Mercury Education & Reduction Campaign    103 South Main Street    Waterbury, VT 05671    802-241-3455
MERC is a program of the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation

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