Lamp Recycling Heads in New Direction

Lamp Recycling Heads in New Direction

This piece was originally published in the May 2017 issue of electroindustry.

Mark Kohorst, Senior Manager, Environment, Health & Safety, NEMA

When it comes to safety, recycling spent lamps is far preferable to disposing them.

In 2014, Washington became the third state, after Maine and Vermont, to enact a mandate for lamp manufacturers to develop and implement a recycling program for mercury-containing lights. In its first six months, the program collected and recycled more than 420,000 mercury-containing lights from 315 collection sites across the state.

Endorsed by NEMA, the Washington law established LightRecycle Washington, a ground-breaking stewardship program for the safe disposal of mercury-added lamps. It represents a new direction for sustainable recycling of mercury, a potent neurotoxin.

Energy-efficient, mercury-added light sources such as linear and compact fluorescent and high-intensity discharge lamps have greatly enhanced energy conservation in all sectors of the economy. Although the mercury content in a single lamp is minimal—usually 10 milligrams or less—the amassed amount from all fluorescent lamps has the potential to harm humans and the environment if not properly recycled.

What’s distinctive about Washington’s law is the requirement that the program be financed through an environmental handling charge of 25 cents per lamp that is applied at retail when each new mercury-containing lamp is sold in the state. Proceeds support a network of collection sites, transportation of spent lamps, processing at recycling facilities, education and outreach, and other program expenses.

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