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Fluorescent light bulbs. Batteries.

 These fall under the Category of Universal Waste.

Businesses must dispose of these items in accordance with rules for Universal Waste.

While there may be state  or local disposal requirements as well, in this post we’re going to address the federal requirements.

List of State Programs

Fluorescent Lamps

Fluorescent light bulbs save energy by producing more light for less wattage, requiring less energy and therefore less fuel burned.

However, the downside of this is the fact that these bulbs contain mercury, making disposal problematic. (When the mercury atoms are  energized, they emit UV rays which cause the phosphors in the tube to glow (fluoresce)- producing visible light.)

Exposures to mercury can affect the human nervous system and harm the brain, heart, kidneys, lungs, and immune system.

The point is to minimize release of vapor that may contain Mercury. Here are 5 steps for handling  fluorescent ‘s under Universal Waste rules:

  • Used lamps should be collected and packaged so as to minimize damage;
  • Employees should be trained on the hazards and procedures involving these type of “universal waste;”
  • Used lamps may be collected and stored on site for up to one year for recycling- Check your local regulations- they may be more stringent.
  • Shipments must be sent to a handler of universal waste or final recycling facility;
  • Businesses may not otherwise dispose of, mix with other waste or ‘treat’ mercury containing lamps.

Break one- here is what the EPA says you need to do for both CFL’s and Fluorescent tubes:


  • Contain any leakage in a container that will not react with nor release the contents.
  • Manage the waste in any way that is in compliance with applicable federal, state, and local regulations, if the waste is not hazardous.

Find battery recyclers near you.

Universal waste link: 40 CFR Part 273

List of State Programs


1 thought on “How Does The Universal Waste Rule Apply To Your Precision Machining Shop?

  1. lighthouse says:

    Apparently an issue with LEDs too,
    including LED replacement for incandescents

    = extensive cross campus Univ of California 2011 research recommending cleanup and
    bulb collection mandates, as with CFLs

    Lead, arsenic, nickel etc concerns….

    ” Measures that could be put in place may be to wear personal safety protection when cleaning up a broken LED bulb, whether at home, or with a cleanup crew at a traffic accident.
    Under today’s law, LEDs are disposed of in typical landfills and are not classified as toxic, but the researchers are hoping that their study will change that.

    The diodes (LEDs) are widely hailed as safer than compact fluorescent bulbs, which contain dangerous mercury. But, as Oladele Ogunseitan, chair of UC Irvine’s Department of Population Health & Disease Prevention said, they weren’t properly tested for potential environmental health impacts before being marketed as the preferred alternative to inefficient incandescent bulbs, now being phased out under California law. “

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