Fluorescent bulbs are an increasingly popular way to reduce energy consumption. They last longer than incandescent bulbs and work more efficiently. Unfortunately, they also contain mercury, a material which can cause damage to the liver, brain and kidneys, as well as developmental problems in children. Once in the environment, mercury can form a more dangerous compound, methyl mercury, which accumulates in living tissues.

Safety precautions

By simply following a few safety precautions, it is possible to enjoy the energy savings of fluorescent bulbs safely:

Do not break or crush used lamps. This releases mercury into the environment. The state of Vermont has compiled instructions for the safe handling of broken bulbs.

Package lamps carefully when transporting. The best way to transport lamps is in their original packaging. If that is not possible, do not tape the bulbs together. If you have a large number of bulbs, the District may be able to provide you with boxes for safe transport.

Do not throw bulbs in the trash. It is illegal to dispose of mercury in Vermont landfills.

Bring them to NWSWD. The District accepts bulbs at HHW collections, as well as by appointment. There is a small fee.

Bring them to an Ace or True Value hardware store. Ace and True Value stores will accept up to six bulbs per visit free of charge. The following stores in Franklin County will accept bulbs:

  • Enosburg: Greens Ace Hardware, 6 Railroad Street (802) 933-7500
  • Enosburg: Sticks and Stuff, Route 105 (802) 933-5011
  • St. Albans: St. Albans Ace Hardware, 133 North Main Street (802) 527-7007
  • St. Albans: Sticks and Stuff, 44 Lower Newton Road (802) 524-2136
  • Swanton: Swanton Lumber, 11 North River Road (802)868-3355

Devices containing mercury

In addition to fluorescent bulbs, mercury can also be found in:

  • Appliance switches
  • Ballasts
  • Button cell batteries, such as the ones used in hearing aids and watches
  • Manometers
  • Thermostats
  • Thermometers
  • HID (high intensity discharge) headlights, identifiable by their blue glow
  • Other HID bulbs such as mercury vapor and metal halide

All of the above items may be brought to the District for safe disposal. As with fluorescent bulbs, there is a small fee for ballasts. Other items are free.

Pharmacies throughout the state have also begun accepting used button cell batteries. See a list of pharmacies that collect button cell batteries.