Are LED Lamps Considered Universal Waste? How To Dispose of LED Lamps Properly
The being said, some of the first LED lamps to hit the market are now more than five years old. Although LED lamps have been, and continue to be marketed as lasting a long time, the unfortunate reality is that many of the initial LED lamps to hit the market are either failing to meet their longevity promises, or simply lack the efficiency performance or color quality that consumers have come to expect from LED lighting today.
This is especially true among our customers, who find that the first generation LED lamps they initially installed are simply not good enough for their needs, and are looking for high CRI or flicker-free lighting options. As a result, a common question we receive, is: after replacing old LED lamps, where do you dispose of the old LED lamps? What are the regulations and requirements for their disposal?
LED Lamps: No Mercury, but Still Considered Universal Waste
The United States EPA has several regulations surrounding the disposal and management of potentially hazardous materials. Universal Waste is a class of materials that are widely produced and used, but have the potential to harm the environment. Household items such as batteries and lamps are considered Universal Waste, and as a result, when you visit your local landfill or waste company, you will likely see a separate section designated for such materials.
You are likely familiar with regulations surrounding fluorescent lamps and their disposal, due to the high levels of mercury that these lamps contain. One of the benefits of LED lighting, however, is that there are no hazardous chemicals such as mercury.
While LED lamps are indeed much safer from a chemicals perspective, they do contain circuitboard components and other materials that the US EPA designates as Universal Waste, due to the high concentration of metals such as copper. While it might intuitively seem that LED lamps should not be subject to Universal Waste due to their lack of mercury, the EPA maintains a relatively broad definition of "Lamps" as defined in Section 237.9:
Lamp, also referred to as “universal waste lamp” is defined as the bulb or tube portion of an electric lighting device. A lamp is specifically designed to produce radiant energy, most often in the ultraviolet, visible, and infra-red regions of the electromagnetic spectrum. Examples of common universal waste electric lamps include, but are not limited to, fluorescent, high intensity discharge, neon, mercury vapor, high pressure sodium, and metal halide lamps.
What is the Best Way to Dispose of LED Lamps?
Each jurisdiction and locale will have different rules and regulations regarding the disposal of LED lamps. For regular household volumes, your local landfill or waste management company will likely have reasonable fees or quotas on LED lamp disposal. For example, they may accept up to 30 lamps for free, after which they may charge a certain fee per pound or per lamp.
Because LED lamps are still relatively new, staff at the landfill facility may not be familiar with whether or not LED lamps are subject to Universal Waste regulations. We would recommend starting with the assumption that the LED lamps are subject to the same regulations as fluorescent lamps, as this will likely save you a lot of time and trouble.
Browse Waveform Lighting Products
A-Series LED Bulbs
Our A19 and A21 lamps fit in standard lamp fixtures and are perfect for floor and desk lamp fixtures.
Candelabra LED Bulbs
Our candelabra LED bulbs offer soft and warm light output in a decorative bulb style that fits E12 lamp fixtures.
BR30 LED Lamps
BR30 lamps are ceiling lamps that fit in residential and commercial fixtures with 4-inch or wider openings.
T8 LED Lamps
Directly replace 4-ft fluorescent lamps with our T8 LED tube lights, compatible both with and without ballasts.
LED Linear Fixtures
Linear lamp fixtures in 2-ft and 4-ft lengths. Plugs into standard wall outlets nd mounts using screws or magnets.
LED Strip Lights
Bright LED emitters mounted on a flexible circuitboard. Can be cut-to-length and installed in a variety of locations.
LED Strip Power Supplies
Power supply units to convert line voltage to low voltage DC needed for LED strip light systems.