Safe disposal of mercury-containing lamps
FluoroCycle: increased recycling of mercury containing lamps
FluoroCycle (www.fluorocycle.org.au) is a voluntary, national scheme that aims to increase recycling of mercury-containing lamps. It commenced operations on 21 July 2010. The initial focus of the scheme is on those sectors that account for the largest consumption of mercury containing lamps, the commercial and public lighting sectors.
FluoroCycle is based on a collaboration between industry and government. It is administered by Lighting Council Australia and sponsored by the Environment Protection and Heritage Council (EPHC).
The EPHC is made up of state, territory, and Australian Government environment ministers. It has been investigating the issues associated with the end-of-life management (disposal methods) for compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) and other mercury-containing lamps and, in May 2009, announced its support for FluoroCycle.
FluoroCycle is also supported by key industry bodies including the Australian Council of Recyclers, the Facility Management Association of Australia, the Australian Local Government Association, the Property Council of Australia and the National Electrical and Communications Association.
- EPHC Communique - Environment Protection and Heritage Council, May 2009
Disposing of mercury-containing lamps
A variety of lamp types used in Australia require mercury to operate. Generally, the higher the power usage, the more mercury that is required to operate the lamp. Mercury containing lamps include:
- high intensity discharge (HID) lamps, such as mercury vapour lamps used for street lighting, which contain between 50 and 1000 milligrams (mg) of mercury
- linear fluorescent tubes, as used in most commercial and public buildings, which are required by an Australian standard to contain less than 15 mg
- compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), used mostly in homes, which are required under a new Australian Standard to have a maximum of 5 mg, and
- some neon tubes, as used in signs.
Waste disposal and handling is primarily a state and local government responsibility in Australia. Landfill disposal of large amounts of mercury containing lamps such as those generated by businesses, institutions, or councils is forbidden in some states.
Please check with your local authority to determine what conditions apply where you live.
An alternative to landfill disposal is taking mercury containing lamps to specialty recyclers who are able to safely recover not only the mercury, but also the glass, phosphor and aluminium contained in the lamps. Recovered mercury is commonly sold to the dental industry, where it is used in amalgam for fillings.
Most lamp recyclers collect large quantities of lamps from capital cities and selected regional areas for transport to a mercury-recycling facility. CFLs can also be posted to recyclers in special purpose containers, although these are currently only available for large quantities. A number of companies provide mercury recycling services.
Several states have household chemical collection programs and/or drop-off points that accept domestic quantities of CFLs and fluorescent tubes for recycling. Other states are considering introducing similar schemes.
Please check with your state environment agency and/or local authority to determine if there is a collection point near you and the types and quantities of lamps accepted for recycling. The following state department websites may be of assistance:
Australian Capital Territory
Department of Territory and Municipal Services
Phone 13 2281
New South Wales
Department of Environment and Climate Change
Phone 131 555
Natural Resources, Environment, the Arts and Sport
Phone (08) 8999 5511
Environment Protection Agency
Phone 1300 130 372
Zero Waste SA
Phone (08) 8204 2051
Department of Environment, Parks, Heritage and the Arts
Phone (03) 6233 6518
Phone 1300 363 744
Zero Waste WA
Phone (08) 6467 5011
Alternatively, you may contact Planet Ark's Recycling Near You Hotline on 1300 733 712 or visit their website at www.recyclingnearyou.com.au to find out where you can recycle CFLs and other mercury-containing lamps in your local area.
More information on mercury lamps, including safe clean-up guidelines for broken lamps is available at: www.climatechange.gov.au/en/what-you-need-to-know/lighting.aspx