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National Lamp Recycling Outreach

Types of Universal Waste

In the mid-2000’s, EPA conducted a mercury lamp recycling outreach program to promote the recycling of mercury-containing lamps by commercial and industrial users. The outreach program increased awareness of the proper disposal methods of mercury-containing lamps in compliance with federal and state universal waste rules. This outreach effort sought to increase the amount of lamps recycled in the short-term, as well as have lasting impact over the long-term.

To support this effort, EPA awarded funds in the form of cooperative agreements to state and non-profit organizations for the development and implementation of a coordinated nationwide mercury lamp recycling outreach program.

Below is a list cooperative agreement recipients and an outline of their specific outreach efforts:

Association of Lighting and Mercury Recyclers (ALMR)

The Association of Lighting and Mercury Recyclers worked in collaboration with EPA to increase the national recycling rate through an education and outreach campaign. In order to encourage better management of mercury from spent lamps, ALMR targeted outreach efforts towards the people who can best contribute to diverting these lamps from municipal solid waste landfills such as building owners and managers of commercial, industrial and government properties. The objective was to get enough information to the right people so that both mandatory and voluntary recycling increased.

Accomplishments from ALMR’s Lamp Recycling Outreach Program (LROP) are as follows:

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California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC)

The California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) Mercury Lamp Recycling Outreach project has three components: (1) an online training course; (2) presentations to businesses; and (3) incorporation of information on lamp recycling into the California State University and California Compliance School’s (CCS) existing curriculum.

DTSC, in collaboration with the California State University of Sacramento, has incorporated the Mercury Lamp Recycling Outreach program material developed through EPA’s Lamp Recycling Outreach Program (modified to reflect the differences in California’s regulations) into an informative online training. The self-paced online training course will allow the California Compliance School to target a larger portion of the regulated community. The course went online October 17, 2005. Course is no longer available as of 2013.

CCS is a partnership between DTSC and the California Community Colleges. CCS is administered through the Bakersfield Community College’s Environmental Technology Institute, and offers basic instruction to the regulated community on compliance with state hazardous waste laws and regulations. CCS is an innovative, activity based training program that teaches the basics of complying with the hazardous waste laws and regulations in a fun and interesting format. This component of the project was incorporated into a new training module that addresses the proper management of fluorescent lamps into the CCS curriculum. CCS can offer their activity based training at various locations throughout California. In addition, violators of universal waste management requirements for lamps would be referred to CCS as part of the settlement agreement. The CCS mercury lamp module was completed in June 2006.

DTSC is providing training on the requirements for managing universal waste lamps and information on proper disposition of waste lamps to various industry associations, environmental managers, building managers, electrical contractors, and local agencies. DTSC has also developed a fact sheet (PDF) (2 pp, 300K, About PDF) Exit EPA and Best Management Practices (PDF).(12 pp, 75K, About PDF) Exit EPA

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Center for Ecological Technology (CET)

Outreach and Education for Results

CET promotes mercury-containing lamp recycling to businesses and industries, schools, organizations and municipalities in western Massachusetts through outreach and education, technical assistance and infrastructure development.

The Evolution of Methodology

CET began the lamp-recycling project using traditional outreach techniques and greatly increased its effectiveness over time by forming innovative partnerships with local boards of health.

CET’s Lamp Recycling Outreach Projects
  • Newspapers – CET worked with local media to publish numerous news stories about lamp recycling. Newspaper circulations varied from 700 for a town newsletter to over 160,000 for the daily paper serving the region’s most populous metropolitan area.
  • Chamber Newsletter – CET met with Chambers of Commerce and placed articles in their newsletters.
  • CET flyer – CET collected paper for recycling from 150 businesses in Berkshire County. They sent a flyer offering no-cost lamp recycling technical assistance to those businesses and their customers asked for assistance.
  • Mayor Letter – CET worked with a municipal recycling coordinator and Mayor to send letters to the city’s largest businesses to encourage them to start recycling lamps. After numerous follow up calls, resent letters and some site visits, a number of the targeted businesses started recycling programs.
  • Boards of Heath: Amherst, Greenfield, Ware, Belchertown, Granby, and South Hadley – Partnerships with local regulatory and permitting agents have been key to widespread increases in lamp recycling. Nearly 100% of the businesses contacted through the Boards of Health have started recycling programs. Over a ten month period, recycling in several sectors was institutionalized with local enforcement.

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Working with Health Departments

CET had great success in reaching out to municipal health departments as a way to add regulatory muscle to lamp recycling. This proved especially true for businesses that need to have an annual permit from the health department.

CET partnered with the health departments in the Towns of Amherst, Belchertown, Granby, Greenfield, South Hadley, and Ware. In each town, CET worked with the health department to send a letter on health department stationery to all tanning salons. A week or two after the letter was sent, CET met with each salon owner to talk about the importance of lamp recycling and to provide technical assistance to the owner. During these visits, CET:

This two-pronged approach was very effective in ensuring that tanning lamps are recycled. CET worked with over 27 tanning salons, all of which are recycling. At least 28,720 linear feet of tanning lamps were recycled in 2005 as a result of CET’s efforts.


CET worked with the Town of Granby, Massachusetts to institute a by-law that requires all tanning salons to recycle used lamps as a part of the permit to operate a tanning facility. Inspectors who conduct semi-annual health inspections of the facilities will now be able to ask about lamp recycling as part of their visit.

In addition to oversight of tanning salons, health departments regulate food establishments, supermarkets, hotels, spas, schools and convenience stores through an annual permitting process. The South Hadley, Massachusetts Health Department chose to incorporate recycling mercury lamps into the 2006 permit renewal process. CET worked with the health department and the Recycling Coordinator to distribute information to 80 permitted businesses. Now, these businesses must document their recycling of spent lamps when they apply for an annual operating permit. This additional item on the permit application doesn’t burden the health department and it helps get mercury out of our air and water.

Similar letters from the West Springfield Health Department have been sent to over 300 businesses. CET provided site visits to these businesses through the first half of 2006.

The Expanding Effect

Health department partnerships have helped CET gain access to an expanding audience. Several chain businesses (Friendly’s, Curves, Rocky’s/Ace Hardware) are now considering recycling at multiple locations in the region in order to stay ahead of future health department initiatives in surrounding towns.

Lessons Learned

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Hawaii Department of Health (HDOH)

Hawaii’s Lamp Recycling Project had two parts:

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Northeast Waste Management Officials’ Association (NEWMOA)

NEWMOA’s Lamp Recycling Outreach Project has focused on promoting lamp recycling among two sectors: electrical distributors and commercial property managers. To conduct this work NEWMOA first formed a Lamp Recycling and Outreach Workgroup comprised of environmental agency representatives from its member states (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont). NEWMOA also created a listserve for the Workgroup members to share information about lamp recycling.

NEWMOA’s Lamp Recycling Workgroup conducted outreach to electrical distributors to encourage them to set up reverse distribution (also known as a lamp take-back program), so that lamp users would have more options for recycling their lamps. NEWMOA believes lamp take-back programs can help address the issue of inconvenience, which is often cited as a reason why lamp users do not recycle their lamps. Electrical distributors can follow different approaches to reverse distribution, ranging from simply acting as a broker to picking up spent lamps from customers.

NEWMOA also believes that electrical distributors are uniquely positioned to offer their customers a convenient one-stop shopping arrangement for lamp purchasing and spent lamp management. At the same time, distributors stand to make a profit by offering recycling services. As “The Electrical Distributor” (TED) Magazine says, “Offering a recycling option to customers can be a good ‘value-add’ service for distributors,” TED Magazine, July 2002.

Following a social marketing model, NEWMOA’s Lamp Recycling Workgroup began its efforts to motivate commercial property managers to recycle their lamps by investigating the barriers that prevent property managers from recycling and the incentives that could motivate them to change their behavior. NEWMOA hired a social marketing consultant to conduct this research.

After-background research confirmed that barriers preventing property managers from recycling their lamps include cost, perceived lack of convenience, poor awareness, and lack of enforcement. The Workgroup then narrowed the focus of its research to:

To reach commercial property managers, incorporating the lessons learned from the social marketing research, NEWMOA’s Lamp Recycling Workgroup:

View information pertaining to the Lamp Recycling Outreach Project on NEWMOA’s website. Exit EPA.

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Pacific Northwest Pollution Prevention Resource Center (PPRC)

PPRC led an effort to educate hospitals, lighting contractors and property managers about the proper disposal of spent fluorescent lamps. The PPRC partners included the Washington State Hospital Association, Lighting Design Lab, and the City of Boise Public Works. The outreach plan included holding presentations and workshops at trade association meetings, maintaining a presence at trade conferences, and a media plan that includes a full year of advertisements and articles in targeted trade journals.

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St. Regis Mohawk Tribe (SRMT)

SRMT’s Waste Lamp Project has two goals:

  1. Empower businesses on the St. Regis Mohawk Reservation to properly dispose of waste lamps; and
  2. Create a model for other tribal communities to implement in their communities.

SRMT has been executing a demonstration project since October 2003. Since that time, SRMT has developed tribal-specific outreach materials including a brochure and video. SRMT developed a video training for businesses in the community and began collecting waste lamps in early 2006. Businesses are allowed to bring their used waste lamps to SRMT’s transfer station. Once there, the lamps are inventoried and stored in standard universal waste lamp boxes.

SRMT developed a waste lamp training manual. Other communities can use the manual to execute a waste lamp collection program. The waste lamp training manual was completed in July 2006. Read the training manual (PDF) (35 pp, 1.2M, About PDF) Exit EPA

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University of South Carolina (USC)

The Environmental Research and Service (ERS) unit of the Institute for Public Service and Policy Research (IPSPR) at the University of South Carolina (USC) is a partner with the Business Recycling Assistance Program (B-RAP), a joint program of the South Carolina Department of Commerce and the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC).

USC has focused its activities in particular on outreach to owners and operators of tanning parlors. Tanning parlors are of particular concern because they generate comparatively large numbers of mercury-containing lamps. Also, the lamps used in tanning beds tend to contain a higher level of mercury than do lamps normally available in commerce (i.e., those used in ordinary fluorescent lighting fixtures).

The project also has resulted in a number of site visits to companies interested in recycling their spent lamps. B-RAP staff have made numerous site visits to a variety of types of facilities, during the course of the project. B-RAP staff also have provided a number of interested companies with educational and outreach materials.

The project provided mini-grants to Dorchester County and Georgetown County to assist these counties with collecting spent mercury-containing lamps by allowing them to purchase lamp collection boxes and have the boxes collected when they were full. Dorchester County has reported that the mini-grant assisted it in recycling more than 300 lamps. The county also reported that activities funded by the mini-grant gave county employees a greater sense of the need to recycle these lamps, and provided a safer work place for the county’s maintenance personnel.

Also, B-RAP organized a mercury lamp “amnesty day” at a Home Depot home improvement store in Aiken, SC on May 14, 2005. Anyone could bring used mercury-containing lamps and leave them for proper packaging and recycling. Lamps accepted included all sizes of fluorescent tubes, flood lamps, plastic encased spotlights, high intensity discharge (HID) lamps, household or compact fluorescent bulbs, and tanning or UV bulbs and lamps. The amnesty day was advertised in local newspapers and through signs posted in local convenience centers. More than 800 bulbs were collected during the event.

The final education and outreach segments of the program were conducted at the end of 2005 and the beginning of 2006. The second final segment provided interested school districts with lamp collection boxes, and arranged for the boxes to be collected by two private lamp recycling companies with facilities in the state of South Carolina.

This outreach project distributed educational material and information on available recycling resources and programs to more than 8,500 recipients. This was accomplished through newsletter distributions and distribution of literature at conferences, workshops, and as part of oral presentations to individual organizations and business groups. In addition, there were four public service announcements broadcasted throughout the state of South Carolina (one announcement was broadcasted at 158 stations).

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Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC)

The Vermont DEC lamp recycling outreach project involved outreach on lamp recycling to business and commercial enterprises, schools and municipalities. Efforts are also being made to measure changes in lamp recycling after outreach activities have been conducted. DEC contracted with the Association of Vermont Recyclers to conduct outreach activities with schools.

The following outreach activities have been conducted:

Measuring Results ’ Baseline lamp recycling for the state was determined for calendar year 2003 by gathering data from lamp recycling facilities serving the state. This baseline represented lamp recycling prior to outreach activities conducted under the cooperative agreement. In calendar year 2004, similar data on lamp recycling were gathered to determine any changes in recycling as a result of the first year of outreach. Results showed a 6% increase in linear feet of fluorescent tubes recycled and more than a 20% increase in compact fluorescents recycled. By September 2006 (end of the project period), the number of linear fluorescent lamps recycled had increased by 18% over the 2003 baseline. The number of compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) increased by 4.4% over the 2003 baseline.

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