Fluorescent Lamp Recycling

By Loretta Macktal, Executive Assistant to the Vice President, Government Relations

Capitol Update, April 23, 2004 Share this on FacebookTweet thisEmail this to a friend

SB 1180 (Liz Figueroa, D-Sunol), the California Mercury Lamp Recycling Act of 2004, proposes an unworkable front end fee on fluorescent lamps to finance recycling of these products. It is the intention of the sponsor, Californians Against Waste, to abandon the existing system of direct contracting between the bulk lamp purchasers and private recyclers, which already covers roughly 80 percent of the fluorescent lamp market. The rationale for the bill is that the current recycling rate is relatively low (25 percent), but this ignores the fact that the current recycling regulations went into effect only in February of this year. In Minnesota, lamp recycling rates jumped 70 percent following enactment of mandatory standards.

Under the current system, the cost to have a private recycler both collect and recycle waste lamps is approximately 25 cents per lamp. By contrast the Department of Toxic Substance Control (DTSC) estimates the cost of recycling alone under SB 1180 may be as high as 75 cents per lamp (3 times higher). The additional cost to state agencies under SB 1180 would be at least $1 million dollars annually. This doesn't include the cost of lamp collection nor the increased costs to local government and school districts.

In addition, since SB 1180 does not limit DTSC’s fee authority, the potential for escalating costs raises the possibility that bulk lamp purchasers would begin to buy their lamps out of state to avoid the California recycling fee.

Any new recycling programs should complement those already in place, taking advantage of the existing infrastructure and efficiencies while at the same time minimizing incremental costs to consumers that could serve as a disincentive to purchasing and using this energy efficient source of lighting.
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