Guide to Managing Spent Lamps

This resource has been developed by the Department of Solid Waste to provide businesses with guidance on how to properly manage wastes in accordance with federal, state and local laws.

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Universal Waste Lamp Overview

Lamps that contain hazardous metals, such as mercury and lead, are considered hazardous waste. Pinellas County requires that all hazardous lamps be recycled or managed as hazardous waste. If recycled and managed in accordance with best practices outlined in this guide, they are considered universal waste and do not count towards your facility’s hazardous waste generator status.

All types of spent lamps containing any amount of mercury, or other toxic metals such as lead and arsenic, including those from households and commercial buildings, have been prohibited from solid waste incineration since July 1, 1994, in any quantity.

Universal waste lamps include:

LED bulb and simple light bulbs
  • Fluorescent Tubes, including “green-tips”
  • Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs).
  • Light Emitting Diode (LED) Lamps.
  • High Intensity Discharge (HID) Lamps, including:
    • Mercury Vapor Lamps (street or high bay lighting).
    • High Pressure Sodium Lamps (street or high bay lighting).
    • Metal Halide Lamps (flood, indoor grow or aquarium lights).
  • Neon Lamps.

Proper Management of Universal Waste Lamps

Close Up of Fluorescent Tubes


  • Used lamps must be stored in a way that minimizes breakage and prevents releases to the environment.
  • Used lamps must be stored in structurally sound containers that are kept closed without any signs of leakage, spillage or damage.
  • Broken mercury-containing lamps must be stored separately in a sealed container labeled, “Broken Spent Mercury Containing Lamps for Recycling.”


  • Used lamp containers must be clearly labeled with one of the following options:
    • Spent Mercury-Containing Lamps for Recycling
    • Universal Waste
    • Universal Waste Mercury Lamps
    • Universal Waste—Lamp(s)
    • Used Lamp(s)
    • Used Mercury Lamps
    • Waste Lamp(s)
    • Waste Mercury Lamps


  • Used lamps may be accumulated on-site for no more than one year from the date that the first used lamp is generated.
  • The accumulation time must be noted either by one of the following methods:
    • Dating the container with the start date of accumulation.
    • Maintaining a generation log.
    • Any other method which clearly demonstrates the length of time that the universal waste has been accumulated from the date it becomes a waste.


Conditionally Exempt Small Quantity Generators (CESQGs)
Used lamps can be recycled at the HHW Center’s Business Electronics and Chemical Collection events on the second Wednesday of each month. They can also be recycled at Pinellas County Household Chemical Collection events. Ballasts are also accepted, but not the light fixture.

Small Quantity Generators (SQGs) and Large Quantity Generators (LQGs)
Used lamps can be recycled through a universal waste handler, a list of which can be found at

What To Do if You Break a Mercury-Containing Lamp

  1. Ventilate the room.
    • Open a window.
    • Leave the room and restrict access for at least 30 minutes.
    • If available, point a floor or pedestal fan at the open window.
  2. Pick up all the materials you can.
    • Wear disposable gloves.
    • Carefully scoop up the fragments and powder with stiff paper or cardboard. Sticky tape like duct tape can be used to pick up small pieces and powder.
    • Wipe the area clean with a damp paper towel or disposable wet wipe.
  3. Double bag and recycle.
    • Place the broken lamp and cleanup materials in doubled plastic bags then seal.
    • Wash your hands.
    • Take the materials to Pinellas County’s HHW Center or give to your universal waste or hazardous waste transporter. Do NOT dispose of in the trash.

Contact Us

For more information or to request a printed copy of this guide, contact the Pinellas County Small Quantity Generator Program at (727) 464-7500 or