What is Mercury Waste?
Mercury waste includes mercury-containing industrial wastes and also discarded mercury-containing products. Often mercury-containing products are found in households, and would thus be household hazardous wastes when discarded, while many are generated by businesses as well. Examples of household mercury-containing wastes include fluorescent light bulbs, thermostats, thermometers, and novelty items (flashing footwear for example). Businesses also generate discarded fluorescent lights, thermostats, medical equipment, etc.
How is Mercury Waste Regulated?
These waste streams are not all regulated in the same manner.
- Industrial mercury-containing wastes generally must be managed according to California’s full hazardous waste management requirements
- Certain discarded mercury-containing products can be managed as “universal waste“, which is hazardous waste with reduced waste management requirements. These mercury-containing products include thermostats, mercury switches, mercury thermometers, pressure or vacuum gauges, dilators and weighted tubing, mercury rubber flooring, mercury gas flow regulators, dental amalgams, counterweights, dampers and mercury added novelties such as jewelry, ornaments and footwear.
- Some mercury-containing equipment or products cannot be regulated as a universal waste. See “Applicability-Mercury-Containing Equipment” in the universal waste regulations, specifically section 66273.4, Title 22, of the California Code of Regulations.
How Can I Dispose of Mercury Waste?
Many cities and counties have developed programs to collect, recycle or properly dispose of household hazardous waste, including mercury-containing household products. These household hazardous waste collection facilities may also collect hazardous waste generated by small businesses that are exempt from regular hazardous waste management requirements. Contact your local Household Hazardous Waste Facility (HHWF) for more information on accepting mercury-containing household and small business hazardous waste. Several ways to identify a local collection center is through the following links:
- List of Local Household Hazardous Waste Programs
- eRecycle.org for your electronic wastes
For more information, please visit our Household Hazardous Waste web page.
In addition, there are a large number of private business that collect mercury-containing hazardous wastes, either directly or through mail-in programs. A few of these businesses are listed below:
- Association of Lighting and Mercury Recyclers (ALMR)
- Bethlehem Apparatus Company, Inc.
- Clean Harbors
- Lamp Environmental Industries, Inc. (LEI)
- Lamp Recyclers, Inc.
- Mercury Recyclers International, Inc. (MRI)
- Stericycle (medical waste)
- Thermostat Recycling Corporation
- Veolia Environmental Services
Note that DTSC does not recommend or endorse any of the businesses listed above. If you would like your service to be listed, please contact us at (916) 322-3670 or (800) 700-5854.
You must use authorized hazardous waste transporters and disposal facilities for mercury wastes that are not universal wastes.
Laws Governing Specific Mercury-Containing Wastes Include:
On January 1, 2006, California law banned the sale of new mercury-added thermostats for most uses. The Mercury Thermostat Collection Act of 2008 requires manufacturers to establish a collection and recycling program individually or with other manufacturers for out of service mercury-added thermostats. See our Mercury in Thermostats web page for more information.
Mercury-Containing Vehicle Switches
The California Mercury Reduction Act prohibits the sale in California of vehicles manufactured on or after January 1, 2005 that contain mercury light switches.
California law also requires that:
- Mercury-containing vehicle switches be managed as a hazardous waste, when removed from a vehicle, and
- DTSC coordinate with local government, industry associations, and the public to encourage the removal of mercury light switches from end-of-life vehicles.
Fluorescent lamps contain mercury and are considered a hazardous waste when discarded or broken. They cannot be discarded in the trash. They can be managed as a universal waste, as discussed on our Universal Waste Handler/Recycler web page.
For more information on regulation of fluorescent lighting, please visit our web page on General Purpose Lights.
For information about the household hazardous waste program in your community:
- Call your local environmental health or public works department
- Call 1-800-CLEANUP (1-800-253-2687)
- Call DTSC’s Regulatory Assistance Officers at 1-800-72TOXIC (1-800-728-6942)
For more information from DTSC’s website, go to:
Mercury in Products Links
Toxics in Products Links
- Toxics in Products Home
- Cadmium in Jewelry
- Lead and Arsenic in Glass Beads
- Lead in Jewelry
- Lead in Plumbing
- Mercury Reduction in Products & Devices
- Recycling Mercury Thermostats
- Restrictions on the use of Certain Hazardous Substances (RoHS) in Electronic Devices
- Toxics in Packaging
- Toxics Reduction in Lighting
- Treated Wood Waste