Regulations vary from state to state, and even from city to city. Some states, such as Vermont, have public-private partnerships that bring together local government and companies to handle these hazardous wastes. The state's Small Business Development Center, for instance, offers regulatory assistance services to companies working to recycle bulbs and other hazardous wastes.

Other government entities should follow this lead, says Paul Abernathy, executive director for the Association of Lighting and Mercury Recyclers. Cities can partially fund their recycling programs by obtaining state grants, tapping into tipping fees, or working with their local electric utility.

But since there is no funding or monetary incentive for solid waste administrators to recycle the light bulbs, and these broken bulbs have already released their toxic mercury before they hit the landfills, it's a tough message for the public works managers to spread.

To change recycling laws and the mindset of elected officials, Abernathy recommends three things:

  • Offer as much education as possible so constituents understand how to properly dispose of bulbs and demand ways to dispose of them properly.
  • Offer a community collection center to collect the bulbs.
  • Work with private retailers and organizations to offer more recycling options.
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