Fluorescent lamps in our homes and in commercial and industrial buildings contain mercury, a potent neurotoxin. Yet, only about 2% of residential fluorescent lamps are safely recycled. Most people aren’t aware of the dangers of disposal and don’t have access to a recycling program.
Although LEDs don’t contain mercury, they do contain heavy metals like lead, copper, nickel, and arsenic, as well as chemicals that have been linked to cancer, neurological damage, kidney disease, hypertension, and skin rashes. Like mercury, these toxics need to be safely managed before the valuable metals and glass in the bulbs can be recycled.
PSI advocates for “extended producer responsibility” (EPR) laws, which require lighting producers to sustainably fund and operate special collection programs for CFLs and LEDs. By giving people convenient access to recycling programs and ample consumer education, EPR programs boost the recycling of spent lamps, reduce government and overall costs of lamp management, and safeguard our health and environment.
Five U.S. states have already enacted EPR legislation for fluorescent lighting. Washington’s EPR program has increased fluorescent lamp recycling by 30% since the program began. In Europe, EPR for fluorescent lamps and LEDs has been mandated under the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive.
Fluorescent bulbs break when disposed in the trash, releasing mercury that harms our families, sanitation workers, and custodians. The mercury also contaminates the air, soil, drinking water, and the fish we eat.
How We’re Leading the Way
PSI brings people together. Our dialogue meetings on fluorescent lighting gave rise to all of the EPR laws for fluorescent lamps in the U.S. and a national action plan to advance lamp recycling. The meetings were attended by local, state, and federal government officials, lamp recyclers, lamp manufacturers, electric utilities, retail associations, and environmental advocates
Our pilot programs have increased recycling infrastructure and collection of commercial and residential fluorescent lamps in Massachusetts, Montana, Nebraska, South Dakota, Utah, and Washington. PSI has also partnered with rural governments in Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Vermont to boost collection of lamps and other mercury-containing products.
We create outreach materials that make it easy to educate union leaders and maintenance workers, building managers and owners, tenants, retailers, residents, and consumers about the dangers of mercury, safe mercury management practices, and how to recycle fluorescent lighting.
How You Can Help
State and local government agencies
Contact PSI for assistance with legislation, lobbying, education and outreach, and pilot programs to reach your lamp recycling goals. The lighting industry won’t volunteer, so it’s up to us.