You can identify these lamps by the “Hg” symbol on the lamp – the universally recognized chemical symbol for mercury.
All fluorescent and most high intensity discharge lamps contain a small amount of mercury, a natural occurring element that is critical for the function of these lamps. Because exposure to certain types of mercury can be harmful, it is important for public health and the environment that lamps be managed properly at the end of life.
Lamp users must be aware of US Federal and state hazardous and universal waste requirements for managing spent lamps. These requirements can differ depending on who generates the spent lamps, whether the lamp qualifies as a hazardous waste, and the state in which the user resides. Even if exempt from spent lamp management regulations, NEMA encourages all businesses and consumers to recycle their spent lamps.
Users should understand that lamp recycling is not self-supporting. Spent lamps have no reusable components or embodied energy and the recovered mercury has minimal value. The user’s cost of recycling lamps, however, can be partially offset by cost savings from using energy efficient lighting. Generally, fluorescent lamps are four to five times more efficient than incandescent bulbs, which helps lower energy costs. Reducing energy use also cuts down on power plant emissions of mercury and other emissions that contribute to global climate change, acid rain, and smog.