Storage of Bulbs

How do I manage and store used lamps while waiting for disposal?
From the Know Toxics Universal
Waste & Used Electronics Training Manual

This and other information on safe storage and handling of lamps can be seen in the Know Toxics Universal Waste & Used Electronics Training Manual, pages 11-12.

A handler of universal waste lamps must manage lamps in a way that prevents releases to the environment. Universal waste lamps must be kept in containers or packages that are structurally sound, adequate to prevent breakage, and compatible with the contents. Containers must remain closed and must be properly labeled.



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  • Used bulbs can be stored for up to one year at the location in which they were used
  • Save money and prevent breakage by storing and packing lamps safely
  • Have those persons responsible for managing your fluorescent bulbs adhere to the following general guidelines:
    • Put used bulbs in original cartons or those provided by a recycler with no packing material included inside
    • Do not tape bulbs together
    • Store used bulb cartons in a dry place, avoid stacking cartons.
    • If stacking is unavoidable, place cartons neatly on pallets and shrink-wrap to prevent cartons from falling
    • Avoid breaking lamps
    • If a lamp breaks, follow the instructions under What do I do if a light bulb breaks?
    • Label the boxes with the date they were stored
    • Consider different disposal options
    • Call your disposal contractor

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Actions You Can Take to Prevent Broken Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs

  • Fluorescent bulbs are made of glass and can break if dropped or roughly handled
  • To avoid breaking a bulb, follow these general practices:
    • Always switch off and allow a working CFL bulb to cool before handling
    • Always handle CFL bulbs carefully to avoid breakage
    • If possible, screw/unscrew the CFL by holding the plastic or ceramic base, not the glass tubing
    • Gently screw in the CFL until snug. Do not over-tighten
    • Never forcefully twist the glass tubing
    • Consider not using CFLs in lamps that can be easily knocked over, in unprotected light fixtures, or in lamps that are incompatible with the spiral or folded shape of many CFLs
    • Do not use CFL bulbs in locations where they can easily be broken, such as play spaces
    • Use CFL bulbs that have a glass or plastic cover over the spiral or folded glass tube, if available. These types of bulbs look more like incandescent bulbs and may be more durable if dropped
    • Consider using a drop cloth (e.g., plastic sheet or beach towel) when changing a fluorescent light bulb in case a breakage should occur
    • The drop cloth will help prevent mercury contamination of nearby surfaces and can be bundled with the bulb debris for disposal
    • What do I do if a light bulb breaks?

Source:  EnergyStar, USEPA*

Lamp Crushing for Size Reduction
This and other information on lamp crushing for size reduction can be seen in the Know Toxics Universal Waste & Used Electronics Training Manual, pages 14-16.

As of August, 2013, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) allows for the use of lamp crushing devices that meet specific standards* under the universal waste program. However, these regulations are currently under review and may change in the near future. Since crushing lamps greatly increases the risk of mercury exposure, it is subject to substantial pollution control laws in addition to universal waste rules.

Keeping bulbs intact until they reach a qualified recycler is the surest method to prevent mercury exposure. Contact disposal contractors to discuss these options.




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*External link. The Northern Virginia Regional Commission does not author third party sites and their reference is for educational purposes only.