University of Vermont

Recycling & Waste Management

Fluorescent Light Bulbs 

If bulbs are broken, click here for special instructions.
fluorescentubes Although we commonly call them "bulbs," according to the Vermont Universal Waste Management Standard, these fluorescent light bulbs are defined as "electric lamps."  An electric lamp is the bulb or tube portion of a lighting device specifically designed to produce radiant energy, most often in the ultraviolet (UV), visible, and infra-red (IR) regions of the electromagnetic spectrum.


All fluorescent lamps (a.k.a. bulbs) contain some level of mercury and therefore must be recycled (even if they have green end caps or other markings to indicate low TCLP-complaint mercury content). We treat all lamps as potentially hazardous and require proper disposal and recycling.

Unlike incandescent bulbs,  fluorescent tubes contains mercury, of which only a very small amount is in vapor form.  Compact fluorescent lightbulbs contain a small amount of mercury — about the amount of ink on the tip of a ballpoint pen — inside sealed glass.   By comparison, mercury thermometers contain about 500 milligrams of mercury.  It would take 100 compact fluorescent bulbs to equal that amount.

The mercury is essential to create the charge that makes the bulb glow.  The amount of mercury required is very small, typically measured in milligrams, and varies by lamp type, date of manufacture, manufacturing plant and manufacturer.

Disposal at UVM

Maintenance and custodial staff are responsible for keeping used bulbs separate from other trash. Place all used fluorescent bulbs in their original boxes to prevent breakage. If original packaging is not available, wrap bulbs in a manner to minimize risk of breakage. Do not wrap bulbs together with tape.


Used bulbs from around campus are collected by UVM Electricians, Light Fixture Specialists and Contractors. Pick up of these bulbs is coordinated by these individual crews and the Environmental Safety department. For more information, contact ES at 656-5400 or write to:

Environmental Safety staff will pick up used bulbs from UVM residence halls three to four times per year. Environmental Safety staff coordinate the pickup with the Residential Life facilities personnel.

Final Destination

UVM sends fluorescent lightbulbs to Complete Recycling Solutions, LLC  in Fall River, MA. CRS offers a recycling technology which separates mercury containing lamps into their main components, recovers the mercury, and recycles 100 percent of the end products. CRS can accept U-shaped and coated fluorescents, mercury vapor, high pressure sodium, metal halide, ultraviolet, ARC & compact fluorescent lamps.

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Last modified April 06 2011 02:34 PM

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