DEALING WITH BROKEN BULBS
Mercury-containing lamps should be stored in a manner that avoids breakage, but everyone
knows that accidents happen. In the event of a broken lamp, use these tips from the EPA.
■ Have people leave the room.
■ Open a window or door to air out the room to the outdoors for 5-10 minutes.
■ Shut off any forced-air ventilation.
■ Gather materials to clean up – stiff paper or cardboard, sticky tape, damp paper towels
or disposable wet wipes (for hard surfaces), and a glass jar with a metal lid or a sealable plastic bag.
■ Do not vacuum. Vacuuming is not recommended unless broken glass remains after all other cleanup steps
have been taken because it can spread mercury-containing powder or mercury vapor.
■ Be thorough in collecting broken glass and visible powder. Scoop up glass fragments and powder using stiff
paper or cardboard. Use sticky tape, such as duct tape, to pick up any remaining small glass fragments and
powder. Place the used tape in the glass jar or plastic bag.
■ Place cleanup materials in a sealable container.
■ Promptly place all bulb debris and cleanup materials, including vacuum cleaner bags, outdoors in a trash
container or protected area until materials can be disposed of. Avoid leaving any bulb fragments or cleanup
■ Next, check with your local government about disposal requirements in your area. Some localities require
that broken fluorescent lamps be taken to a local recycling center.
■ If practical, continue to air out the room. Leave the ventilation system off for several hours.
“The lamp recycling industry can tailor
programs to meet any
needs. They offer
prepaid recycling kits
for small volumes of
recycling in their buildings. If the task is
too daunting, don’t hesitate to bring in
outside help. Recycling consultants can
wade through the details, and service
providers can be found at NEMA’s www.
lamprecycle.org. Your lamp distributor
may provide recycling services.
Think ahead to recycling when specify-
ing and purchasing lighting. Dolin recom-
mends considering lamp life: “Longer
life lamps lower the number of lamps
purchased over the life of the building
and reduce the number and costs of lamps
recycled.” Ribelli encourages FMs to look
at manufacturers knowledgeable about
end-of-life waste management.
“Progressive manufacturers are taking
into account the future of the circular
economy,” says Ribelli. “This is the concept that all items will eventually have an
end of life and there is a best way to reuse
the components for future, new-product
manufacturing. You build the recycling
into the manufacturing process.” B
Jenna M. Aker is a contributing editor for
to meet any facility manager’s needs,”
adds Dolin. “They offer prepaid
recycling kits for small volumes of
lamps. One price includes round-trip
transportation of recycling containers, lamp and/or ballast recycling, and
a certificate of recycling. They might
coordinate direct pick-up for large
volumes of lamps.”
5) Get proof. Keep records on recycling
your lamps and ballasts. To verify that
your waste is going to the proper place
(and that you’re dealing with an actual
recycler and not a broker), a certificate is required from the destination
facility – the place where the actual
recycling happens. You don’t want to
find yourself on the wrong end of an
enforcement action. “A certificate of
recycling from the destination facility
is the proof you need to protect yourself,” says Abernathy.
Start Now, Start Right
Until a uniform national policy for
lamp recycling exists, facility managers will have to do their best to execute