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Tip Of The Month

Recycling Fluorescent Lamps, Ballasts, Batteries And Electronic Waste

Air Cycle Corporation

November 01, 2012
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Air Cycle Tip of the Month

Legal Requirements

Many states require lamp recycling and proper disposal of ballasts, batteries and electronic waste by law. Make sure you are compliant with your state regulations.

Due to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) regulation on lamps, which went into effect on January 6, 2000, most non-residential facilities are now required by law to properly dispose of their lamps.

Landfills are increasingly intolerant of lamps from non-residential sources due to the amount of mercury found in each lamp. Lamps later found in landfills are subject to retroactive cleanup costs under CERCLA. Recycling of the lamp components is the recommended method of disposal by the EPA and helps to minimize facility liability. Packaging of the lamps, coupled with the recycling of the lamps, will greatly reduce the mercury dilemma and create a much safer environment.

Why Recycle?

Recycling ensures that you are in compliance with all state and federal regulations. Certificates of recycling are sent via e-mail and stored in your account history for each container returned.

The Environment

Fluorescent lamps contain mercury, and ballasts, batteries and electronic waste can contain mercury, lead, metals and other materials that have a harmful effect on the environment if not recycled.

What's In A Lamp?

A fluorescent lamp consists of a glass shell, a high vacuum, a small amount of liquid mercury and evaporated mercury, some phosphor powder and the metal end-caps and heated filaments. Fluorescent light is produced by passing an electric current through mercury vapor, which generates ultraviolet energy. A phosphor coating on the inside of the bulb transforms the ultraviolet energy into visible light. A single four-foot fluorescent tube contains from five to 50 milligrams (mg) of mercury.

When lamps are sent to landfills, or especially when incineration is used as an alternative disposal method, mercury vapors are released that can travel over 200 miles. It is highly toxic to the human nervous system and particularly poisonous to the kidneys. Once absorbed by the body, mercury is distributed by the blood to all tissues of the human body, and it easily crosses the placental barrier; prenatal exposure can lead to a variety of health problems including a severe form of cerebral palsy.

  1. Each year, an estimated 600 million fluorescent lamps are disposed of in U.S. landfills amounting to 30,000 pounds of mercury waste.
  2. The EPA reports that 187 incinerators nationwide emit approximately 70,000 total pounds of mercury into the environment each year.
  3. In 1992, mercury-containing lamps were added to the EPA's list of hazardous substances. The EPA's regulatory threshold of two mg. per liter is usually exceeded by mercury-containing lamps.
  4. Mercury was number three on the 1997 list of hazardous substances as outlined by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) and the EPA.

Why Recycle?

Recycling guarantees all of your hazardous and universal waste will be properly recycled by EPA-compliant U.S. recycling facilities.

Recycling Is Cost Effective

Over the lifecycle of a fluorescent lamp, the cost to recycle is less than 1 percent of the cost of ownership. Recycling your lamps and obtaining a certificate of recycling is also a guaranteed way to avoid fines and costly enforcement action which can easily exceed the cost of lamp recycling. It is possible to keep mercury out of the air by sending intact lamps to a reputable lamp recycling company, where it is estimated that only 0.2 percent to 0.4 percent of the mercury is emitted to the atmosphere.

Mercury-containing lamps are now quite inexpensive to recycle. However, the process still costs more than the recycled content is worth, so users must pay a small fee to have them recycled.

Over the lifecycle of a fluorescent lamp, the cost to recycle today is less than one percent of the cost of ownership, as the bulk of ownership dollars are spent to cover energy costs.

The estimated breakdown of costs is as follows:

  1. Cost of materials: Three percent.
  2. Cost of installation and maintenance: 10 percent.
  3. Cost of energy consumption: 86 percent.
  4. Cost of recycling: One percent.

Even with these statistics, businesses are hesitant to incur extra costs. This is the greatest barrier to recycling. However, states that have passed landfill bans for mercury-containing products issue varying levels of penalties for infringement of these regulations.

Why Recycle?

Recycling — and obtaining a certificate of recycling from the recycler — is a guaranteed way to avoid fines and enforcement actions that can easily exceed the cost of lamp recycling.

Recycling Is A Green Idea

Implementing a lamp, ballast, battery or electronics recycling program is a simple and practical way to "green" your organization and benefit from the resulting positive public relations. Recycling universal waste can earn your facility Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) points, too.

Implementing a universal waste recycling program within your organization is a quick and inexpensive step in the sometimes daunting "green" process. Having a recycling program in place can also be good for employee and customer loyalty and morale. Furthermore, recycling all mercury-containing lamps, batteries and electronic waste can help your facility meet LEED prerequisites, earn points and achieve certification from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC).

You Can Make A Difference

Recycling your lamps and other universal waste is the right thing to do. As the saying goes, "Every little bit counts." And, keeping hazardous waste out of our landfills and reusing natural resources is a big step towards a sustainable world.


The Bulb Eater®

For facilities over 150,000 square feet that generate large quantities of fluorescent lamps.

The Bulb Eater® on-site lamp crusher crushes spent fluorescent lamps of any length into 100 percent recyclable material while capturing over 99.99 percent of the vapors released. U-tube and CFL crushing models also available.

Quick Facts:

  • Crushes straight lamps of any length.
  • Crushes u-tube lamps (model VRS-U only).
  • Crushes a four-foot fluorescent lamp in one second.
  • Reduce labor by up to 20 hours per 1,000 lamps.
  • Save up to 50 percent on recycling costs.
  • Minimize storage space by up to 80 percent with lamp crusher.
  • The most fun you can have disposing of lamps.



For facilities that generate smaller amounts of intact lamps, ballasts, batteries and electronic waste.

Fast, convenient recycling by mail, EasyPak pre-paid recycling containers are the safe and easy way to recycle your facilities' fluorescent bulbs, batteries, ballasts and electronics.

Quick Facts:

  • One price includes the container, shipping and recycling fees and certificates of recycling.
  • Available with automatic reordering.
  • All containers are UN-certified.

Comming soon: Air Cycle will announce a new product that will revolutionize pre-paid lamp recycling boxes.


Nationwide Bulk Pickup Recycling Services

For facilities over 150,000 square feet that need to recycle large quantities of crushed or intact lamps and other waste.

Get the best prices and service by utilizing our nationwide network. Simply contact Air Cycle, schedule a pickup and the waste is transported to regionally located recycling centers. After the waste is recycled, online recycling reports are generated and available 24/7; bulk recycling services are perfect for facility management reviews, "green" marketing initiatives and more.

Quick Facts:

  • Recycle unlimited quantities of lamps, ballasts, batteries and electronic waste.
  • Lowers recycling costs with no upfront investment.
  • Schedule pickups according to facility needs.

Start Recycling Today

Learn more at or call (800) 909-9709 for information and pricing.

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