Household Hazardous Waste

What should I do with Fluorescent Light Bulbs/Tubes and Ballasts?


Although fluorescent lamps save energy, thereby benefiting the environment, the mercury all fluorescent lamps contain is a highly toxic, heavy metal that can harm the environment when spent lamps are improperly disposed of. (This includes the "green tip" lamps which also contain mercury.)  The 106 pounds of mercury annually generated by New Hampshire's 2.4 million spent lamps makes fluorescent lamps one of the largest sources of mercury in the state. Because there are few recycling or disposal options for homeowners or small businesses, only 20 percent to 30 percent of spent fluorescent lamps are properly recycled; the rest are generally tossed in the trash with serious environmental and health consequences.

Ballasts are electrical devices for starting and regulating the fluorescent bulbs.  Until the 1970s, these ballasts contained PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls)-a very toxic substance.  Even though manufacturing stopped, the use of existing ballasts with PCBs continued, and they are sometimes in use today.  These can be brought to your HHW collection.

What kind of fluorescent lamps can be recycled? 

  • Linear fluorescent tubes
  • Compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs) (spiral light bulbs)
  • Linear fluorescent bulbs from tanning booths, black lights, grow lamps, etc. 
  • Circular fluorescent bulbs 
  • HID (High Intensity Discharge) car headlights 
  • HID lights such as mercury vapor, metal halide, etc. 

Fluorescent lights and ballasts (except with PCBs) are no longer accepted at all HHW collections because there are programs for municipalities to provide collection.  

Some hardware stores in New Hampshire and Vermont will accept bulbs and tubes from residential customers at no charge. Home Depot takes CFLs which are the small spiral fluorescent bulbs.  Ask at the service desk.  They do not accept the tubes. Also, most towns have their own collection programs for fluorescent bulbs and ballasts. It is much less expensive for your town if you take spent bulbs and ballasts to their transfer station than to bring them to a HHW collection. Municipalities may sign on to the Department of Environmental Services contract for bulb and ballast collection and recycling, or they can contact any of the vendors on this list.

Clean Up of Broken Fluorescent Bulb

Click here to learn what to do if you break a fluorescent bulb or tube.  See here for NH DES best management practices for Mercury-Containing Devices and Lamps/Bulbs.