Proper Lamp Disposal

Proper disposal of fluorescent and HID lamps

Fluorescent and high-intensity discharge (HID) lamps use less electricity per unit of light emitted than incandescent lighting which means lower levels of air pollutants such as mercury, lead, nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxides from electrical generation plants. Fluorescent and HID lamps all contain mercury, an environmental pollutant, but when properly managed and recycled, they have less impact on our environment than incandescent lamps. Wisconsin State law, as well as laws in many other states, prohibits the disposal of lamps and bulbs that contain heavy metals, such as mercury, in sanitary landfills. This ban includes fluorescent (linear and U-tube), compact fluorescent (CFL), mercury vapor, metal halide, high-pressure sodium and low-pressure sodium lamps. They must be recycled or disposed of as hazardous waste. The good news is that they can and are being recycled.

The lamps should not be broken to prevent the release of mercury and are best stored in the packaging the replacement bulbs come in until being recycled. Several companies recycle lamps to recover the mercury, copper, aluminum, brass and glass from them. The mercury is distilled from the phosphor powder used in fluorescent lamps and reused in new lamps; the copper, aluminum and brass are smelted and reused for raw material in non-food contact products; and the glass is purified and used to make fiberglass. Contact your local waste hauler, recycling center or CleanSweep program coordinator for information on the collection of fluorescent and HID lamps. If they can’t help you, contact your county or state waste management program about recycling locations or search the Wisconsin Recycling Markets Directory at

For additional information on lamp disposal, contact the Department of Natural Resources and ask for publication WA 195, “Lamp and Bulb Management”. Available at

Proper disposal of Fluorescent and HID Ballasts

Older fluorescent and HID lamp ballasts contain PCB or polychlorinated biphenyls which are regulated as a hazardous waste and cannot be disposed of in landfills per Wisconsin State law. Ballasts that do not contain PCB are marked “NO PCB” and can be recycled (preferable) or disposed of in a landfill. If ballasts are not marked, it must be treated as if it contains PCB. If ballasts are leaking, they require special handing. Contact your local hazardous waste response coordinator for assistance.

Additional information can be found in the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s publication “Managing PCBs in Ballasts and Small Capacitors”, Waste/Hazardous Waste publication #4.48f October 2005.
Available at

If you have questions about the information on this site, please contact
Scott Sanford, Distinguished Outreach Specialist, University of Wisconsin,