Recycling Programs

Fluorescent Light Bulbs Information

The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 was signed into law on December 19, 2007, as Public Law 110-140. As part of this Act, the incandescent light bulb will be phased out of the U.S. market beginning in 2012.

Why target light bulbs?

Energy efficient lighting is one of the lowest-cost ways for the nation to reduce electricity use and, as a result, greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, households should save money because their utility bills will be lower. The ban will be gradual, beginning in 2012 with 100 watt bulbs and finishing in 2014. However, some manufacturers may phase out earlier.

So, what do I use instead?

The Energy Act identified an energy efficient standard for lighting. Currently, fluorescent and compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFL) meet these standards. CFLs are designed to fit into sockets that accommodated incandescent lights, but with the advantages of a fluorescent lights. A CFL can save over $30 in electricity costs over its life and uses 75% less energy than an incandescent bulb.

It is anticipated that in the future, light emitting diodes (LED) lights will also be available and up to the standard. Also, energy efficient incandescent light bulbs are under development and may be on the market by the time the ban is in place.

What about the mercury in fluorescent and CFLs?

Although CFLs have the advantage of being energy efficient, they do contain mercury, which is toxic. The amount amount of mercury sealed in each bulb is small about 1% of what used to be in those old-fashioned thermometers. A CFL contains an average of 5 mg of mercury.

However, coal-fired power plants, the source of most of the electric power used in the U.S., emit approximately 10 mg of mercury to produce the electricity to run an incandescent bulb compared to only 2.4 mg of mercury to run a CFL for the same time.

The average mercury content of 4-ft long fluorescent light bulbs has decreased from about 48 mg in 1985 to 12 mg in 1999. The majority of fluorescent lamps in service in the USA in recent years contain an average of 22 mg of mercury.

What about disposing of the light bulbs?

Fluorescent bulbs and CFLs are included in hazardous waste regulated as universal waste. Commercial businesses must follow these rules in disposing of their fluorescent light bulbs. For commercial businesses, fluorescent bulbs and CFLs are prohibited from DSWA’s facilities.

Households also generate hazardous wastes, but they are allowed to dispose of these wastes in the trash. While new municipal solid waste landfills are designed to handle Household Hazardous Wastes (HHW), these wastes can be better managed in a designated program for collection or recycling. DSWA encourages residents to utilize HHW Collection Events for handling fluorescent light bulbs.

DSWA operates a Household Hazardous Waste Collection Program free for all Delaware residents. DSWA educates and increases public awareness and participation in collecting the fluorescent light bulb as part of the HHW Program.

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