Mercury is used in many everyday products like fluorescent lamps, thermometers, thermostats, blood pressure manometers and pleasure boat bilge pump float switches. Some of these products have an environmental benefit. For example, fluorescent lamps use less energy than traditional incandescent lamps. Unless they are recycled or otherwise disposed of properly, however, the mercury from these discarded products can contaminate the air, surface water and ground water. Mercury contamination in Florida is most evident from the fish consumption advisories due to high mercury levels in certain fish in a number of Florida lakes and in the Everglades. The Florida DEP has responded to this mercury contamination with research to better understand the problem and its causes and with environmental controls to reduce the potential for mercury to enter the environment.
Mercury-Containing Lamps (MCLs) Including Fluorescent Lamps
MCLs include primarily fluorescent lamps of all types, high-intensity discharge (HID) lamps (e.g., metal halide, mercury vapor and high pressure sodium), and some neon lights. All of these lamps contain mercury in varying quantities. MCLs from households and other residential sources are not included in the following definition under Florida law and thus are exempt from Florida's regulations covering MCLs.
Under Florida's law for MCLs and MCDs, Section 403.7186, F.S., "Environmentally sound management of mercury-containing devices and lamps," MCLs are defined as "any type of high or low pressure lighting device which contains mercury and generates light through the discharge of electricity either directly or through a fluorescing coating. The term lamp includes, but is not limited to, fluorescent lamps, mercury lamps, metal halide lamps, and high pressure sodium lamps. The term excludes mercury-containing lamps used in residential applications and disposed of as part of ordinary household waste."
Mercury-Containing Devices (MCDs)
MCDs include mercury-containing thermometers, thermostats, switches and relays, manometers, other devices that contain liquid mercury, and mercury-containing ampoules that have been removed from these devices or from MCLs in accordance with the US EPA's Universal Waste Rule (UWR) thermostat ampoule removal standards (40 CFR 273.13 or 273.33). MCDs do not include batteries or lamps.
Prohibitions on MCL and MCD Disposal
Per 403.7186, F.S., (linked above), MCLs are prohibited from being disposed of at solid waste incineration facilities (i.e., waste-to-energy facilities or municipal waste combustors) in Florida. There are 12 of these facilities operating in 10 counties and two municipalities in Florida (Bay, Broward, Dade, Hillsborough, Lake, Lee, Palm Beach, Pasco, Pinellas, and Polk counties; and the cities of Tampa and Lakeland). Some other counties send part or all of their solid waste to solid waste incineration facilities operating in another county.
Also per the law above, all MCDs, including those from households and other residential buildings, are prohibited by law from being disposed of at any municipal solid waste (MSW) disposal facility in Florida such as a landfill or solid waste incinerator.
These prohibitions are not dependent on whether the MCLs or MCDs are hazardous wastes, but apply to lamps (e.g., even to the low mercury fluorescent lamps currently on the market) and devices containing added mercury in any amount.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is the state’s lead agency for environmental management and stewardship – protecting our air, water and land. The vision of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection is to create strong community partnerships, safeguard Florida’s natural resources and enhance its ecosystems.