Disposing of Fluorescent Light Bulbs

Mercury-containing light bulbs cannot be thrown in the trash. This includes:

  • fluorescent bulbs
  • compact fluorescent light bulbs
  • HID lamps, such as mercury-vapor, metal halide, and high-pressure sodium lamps

Mercury is a highly toxic heavy metal. When lamps are broken or thrown into the trash, mercury is released into the environment in the form of an invisible vapor or a bead.  It is best to avoid any exposure to mercury and prevent its release into the environment where it can damage our lakes and streams and poison fish and wildlife.

For more detailed information on Compact Fluorecent Light Bulbs or Mercury Spills click on the two fact sheets below:

What can I do with my fluorescent bulbs?

Fluorescent and HID lamps are accepted from both households and businesses at the District Transfer Station for recycling under the following guidelines:

  • Screw-in style compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) are accepted in any quantity at no charge.
  • 10 or fewer, per day, of other mercury-containing lamps that are used for general purpose lighting will be accepted at no charge. This includes straight, circular and U-shaped tubes, HID (high intensity discharge) bulbs, and pin-base CFLs.  11 or more bulbs brought in per day of this type will be subject to a per bulb fee.  See transfer rate schedule for fee details.

NOTE: Please store fluorescent lamps in the original box (if possible) to prevent breakage. Do not tape them together. Broken lamps are accepted and should be placed into a sealed tube box or other impenetrable container.

If you break a fluorescent bulb…

Do not vacuum or sweep the area as it will spread mercury vapor to other areas of the room. Also, keep all people and pets away from breakage area so that mercury powder is not tracked into other areas.

For breakage on a hard surface:

  1. Ventilate the area well by closing interior doors and vents, opening windows and any exterior doors in the room, and leaving the room for at least 15 minutes.
  2. Remove all materials you can and do not vacuum or sweep.
    • Wear disposable gloves, if available.
    • Carefully scoop up the glass fragments and powder with a stiff piece of paper or cardboard (such as playing cards or index cards).
    • Pick up any remaining small pieces of glass and powder using sticky tape (such as masking tape or duct tape).
    • Wipe the area clean with a damp paper towel or disposable wet wipe.
  3. Place all cleanup materials (cardboard, gloves, tape, etc.) in a plastic bag (and double bag) to seal it; or preferably, place into a glass or rigid container with a lid. Store the bag or container outside of the house in an area inaccessible to children.
  4. Wash your hands.
  5. Bring to the Addison County Solid Waste District Transfer Station during household hazardous waste hours.
  6. Leave the windows in the affected room or area open as long as practical (weather permitting).

For breakage on carpet:

  1. Complete steps 1 through 6 above.
  2. If rug is removable, take it outside, shake, and air out as long as practical.
  3. After cleanup and the room or area has been ventilated: the first time you vacuum the area where the CFL was broken, shut the door to the room or close off the area from as much of the rest of the house as possible, and ventilate the room when vacuuming. Remove the vacuum bag once done cleaning the area, wipe vacuum with wet wipe and put the bag and/or vacuum debris, including cleanup materials, into a plastic bag (double bag it) and store the bag outside the house in an area inaccessible to children. Refer to #5 above for proper disposal options.
  4. After vacuuming, keep window open, door closed and children/pets out of room.
  5. Consider removal of carpeting section where the breakage has occurred as a precaution when there are infants, small children, and pregnant women present. For questions, call the Vermont Department of Health at (802) 240-5076 (24 hour pager).