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fluorescent lamps

Workplace Lighting

purchasing practices 
disposal guidelines

Purchasing Practices

The type and quality of lighting in your workplace sets the tone for employee comfort and can affect employee productivity and work quality. It can also be a significant contributor to your electric bill.

Incorporating energy-efficient lamps and ballasts, as well as a mix of lighting controls, can lower your energy costs and ensure adequate lighting for all areas within your office.

Energy-efficient fluorescent lighting includes long fluorescent bulbs used in overhead light fixtures, as well as compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs). CFLs come in many shapes and shades and can be used for task lighting in a variety of settings. In fact, Local Law 119 of 2005 bans the purchase of incandescent lights by any NYC agency unless there is no alternative available.

Here are suggestions for increasing the lighting efficiency of your organization, and ways to handle the safe disposal of your fluorescent lamps:

  • Ensure your lights are turned off when not in use.
  • Adjust blinds to let sun in on colder days and out on warmer days.
  • Purchase long-life fluorescent lamps to reduce the frequency of replacement and hence the number of lamps that need to be managed.
  • Look for lower-wattage fluorescent lamps (32- or 34-watt T-12 tubes can reduce energy use by 15 to 20 percent).
  • Purchase reduced-diameter T-8 or T-5 fluorescent lamp tubes. They give off more light and use even less energy than conventional fluorescent lamps.
  • Replace only burned-out bulbs. Do not replace all bulbs in an office at once if they are still working.
  • Use reflective panels to increase overhead fluorescent lighting by up to 10 percent.
  • Look for energy-efficient ballasts. The ballast is an integral part of a fluorescent fixture, providing proper starting and running voltage and current for the lamps. Magnetic ballasts that meet federal energy efficiency standards are labeled with an E. However, electronic ballasts use 10 to 30 percent less energy than magnetic ballasts do, to create the same amount of light. They also generate less heat, operate at higher frequency (which reduces flickering), and create less noise.
  • Purchase low-mercury fluorescent lamps, usually indicated by a "green tip" or characteristic green-colored aluminum end. Fluorescent lamps contain mercury that can be released into the atmosphere if broken. By purchasing low-mercury fluorescent lamps, Agencies can minimize the amount of mercury that is released when lamps are discarded. Local Law 120 of 2005 requires that Agencies purchase the lamps with the lowest amount of mercury added, provided energy efficiency requirements are met.
  • Recycle used fluorescent lamps when they need to be replaced

improving building energy efficiency
purchasing standards for nyc agencies

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Disposal Guidelines

Numerous vendors across the country accept and process lamps and ballasts for recycling. Most vendors require that whole lamps be repackaged in their original boxes (or in boxes provided by the recycler) and shipped to the vendor’s recycling facility.

fluorescent and other mercury-containing lamps 
lighting ballasts


In accordance with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, fluorescent lamps are categorized as “universal wastes.” In addition, the NY State Mercury-Added Consumer Products Law requires all Mercury-Containing Lamps, including "green-tip" or "low-mercury" lamps be handled as universal waste.

Generated in a wide variety of settings, universal wastes include such items as hazardous batteries, hazardous mercury-containing thermostats, certain pesticides, and hazardous lamps.

While handlers of universal wastes meet less stringent standards for storing, transporting, and collecting wastes, they must comply with full hazardous waste requirements for final recycling, treatment, or disposal.

This means that businesses and agencies must recycle all fluorescent lamps (with the exception of small businesses with 100 or less employees disposing of 15 or less non-hazardous waste lamps per month). NYC residents can find information at lighting tips at home.


Ballasts are devices used with an electric discharge lamp to limit the amount of current in the electrical circuit.

  • Ballasts manufactured prior to 1979, may contain polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB). PCBs are considered hazardous waste and must be disposed of separate from the trash.
  • Ballasts manufactured after 1979, but prior to 1994 may contain Di (2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) which was used to replace PCBs. DEHP can also be considered a hazardous waste, however small quantities of DEHP containing ballasts can legally be discarded in the trash. However, in accordance with federal guidelines, in the event that a commercial entity is disposing of over 100 pounds (approximately 1,600 fluorescent lighting ballasts) in a 24 hour period, these ballasts must be disposed of appropriately and some notification will be required.
  • Ballasts manufactured after 1994 no longer contain hazardous materials, they can be recycled through any metal recycler.

Check with your fluorescent lamp recycler to see if they accept ballasts, for a list of fluorescent lamp recyclers, see products and services.

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