Recycling Mercury-added Fluorescent and other Lamps

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Maine Compact Fluorescent Lamp Breakage Study Report

Handle Mercury-added Light Bulbs Safely

Mercury is a significant environmental problem in Maine. To help address this concern, Maine law requires businesses and consumers to recycle all mercury-added light bulbs (a.k.a. "lamps"). When one of these bulbs breaks, mercury is released. For that reason, it is illegal to throw mercury-added bulbs in the trash in Maine.

How do I know if a light bulb contains mercury?

Common mercury-added light bulbs include, but are not limited to, compact fluorescent (CFL), linear fluorescent (straight, circline and u-tubes), neon lights, black lights, UV lights, and high intensity discharge (HID) bulbs. High intensity discharge bulbs (HID) are commonly used in security, outdoor and warehouse lighting. HID bulbs are sometimes used indoors in commercial settings. Mercury vapor, metal halide, high pressure sodium are all types of HID bulb. HID bulbs are also used in vehicle headlamps and can be identified by their characteristic bluish-white tint when lit. If you are unsure whether a light bulb contains mercury, look for the letters "Hg" (the elemental symbol for mercury) on the bulb. Some light bulbs may also be labeled with the words "contains mercury."

Since I can't throw them away, what should I do with burnt out bulbs?

Answer: Recycle them.

Proper Recycling of Fluorescent and HID Bulbs through Product Stewardship

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Maine requires manufacturers of mercury-added lamps to implement a product stewardship program for the recycling of these bulbs from households. The manufacturers' program provides containers to municipal waste collection sites and to retailers for storage, shipping and recycling of the bulbs.

Through this program, the following may be recycled for free at participating municipal and retail drop-off locations across the state:

  • UNLIMITED - Compact Fluorescent bulbs (CFL)
  • LIMIT 10 PER VISIT – 8', 4' or smaller Linear Fluorescents, U-tubes, Circular, HID, etc.

If you have larger quantities of non-CFL bulbs, check with your transfer station or town office for recycling options.

How to find the nearest mercury-added light bulb recycling locations:

All retail locations can recycle CFLs, circline, U-shaped and linear fluorescent bulbs up to 2' in length. A more limited number of retail locations may take fluorescent tubes including 4' and 8' in length. We strongly recommend calling the store you plan to visit before bringing your bulbs in to confirm which sizes they can accept for recycling. Many municipal locations will recycle all types of fluorescent bulbs including linear bulbs up to 8' in length.

Businesses who handle larger volumes of bulbs from change-outs or retrofits may use a Universal Waste Management and Recycling Company (PDF), contract with a lamp replacement company to get their fluorescent bulbs recycled. Businesses may contact DEP Hazardous Waste program staff at (207) 287-7688 about requirements and options for businesses.

More Information

  • Mercury-Added Product Fact Sheets describe historic and current mercury use in batteries, dental amalgam, lighting, thermostats, measuring devices, and formulated products.
    - Interstate Mercury Education & Reduction Clearinghouse (IMERC) (off site)

Contact Information

For more information on recycling lamps from businesses and on the fluorescent lamp study contact Cherrie Plummer at (207) 830-1772.

For more information about product stewardship and the manufacturers' program contact Brian Beneski (207) 592-0248.