Ask the Expert, Hazardous and Solid Waste, Q&A

Fluorescent Bulbs: Hazardous or Universal Waste?

Q. What states require broken fluorescent bulbs to managed as hazardous waste, instead of Universal Waste?

A. All states require broken fluorescent bulbs to be managed as hazardous waste because of the bulbs’ mercury content. As with many environmental state agencies, California’s Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) provides helpful information concerning management of broken bulbs on its website as does Missouri’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

Note also that handlers of universal waste are required to “immediately clean up and place in a container any lamp that is broken and must place in a container any lamp that shows evidence of breakage, leakage, or damage that could cause the release of mercury or other hazardous constituents to the environment” (40 CFR 273.13 and 40 CFR 273.33).