Mercury lamps in the UK: Are you adhering to new regulations?

The UK government’s decision to phase out mercury-containing light bulbs (referred to as lamps by electricians) is close to completion. After a public comment process started in July 2021, it aims to reduce the release of toxic chemicals that can harm us, our wildlife and the environment. As part of the UK’s broader efforts to protect ecosystems from toxic waste, it’s an important step that we’re in full support of.

The regulations apply to all mercury-containing light sources in the UK, also commonly known as fluorescent tubes or lamps. The government requires replacing them with energy-efficient alternatives, such as LED tube lights, that are recommended under the new regulations.

Mercury is a toxic pollutant that bioaccumulates. It doesn’t dissipate on its own and converts to toxic methylmercury in the environment, which can be absorbed into the food chain. That’s why it’s important to carefully collect and dispose of mercury to stop it from getting into land, waterways and the sea.

Fluorescent tubes and lamps that contain mercury are most commonly found in commercial properties. We understand that knowing which of your lamps contain mercury and navigating their safe disposal can be a daunting prospect. Rest assured, this guide is your resource for understanding the mercury lamp regulations in the UK.

Mercury lamps are recycled by our partner, CEF.

Timeline of the ban

The EU Commission revised the Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive (RoHS) to define the handling of mercury-containing lamps. The RoHS confirmed that the production and placing on the market of many would be banned from February 2023 to February 2024.

Lamps and ban dates

The following ban dates of lamps containing mercury are for their ban of sale, rather than their ban of use. So, although you can’t legally buy lamps that contain mercury after their ban date, you can continue using them. However, they must be disposed of properly.

Mercury lamps and their ban dates

Compact fluorescent lamps

Banned as of February 2023

Compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) base their function on mercury and were introduced to replace halogen alternatives, believe it or not. Typically, they were used for backlights of LCD displays, decorative lighting and signs, and fixtures in workshops, garages and utility areas. Due to their mercury content, CFLs were phased out at the beginning of 2023.

T8 fluorescent tubes

Banned as of 1 September 2023

Again, the T8 fluorescent tubes have already been removed from the market. Be aware that these fluorescent tubes were used in commercial and industrial settings due to their bright lighting, and will impact many commercial environments including office spaces, retail stores, schools, garages and warehouses.

T5 fluorescent tubes

Banned from 1 February 2024

T5 fluorescent tubes are another type of fluorescent tube light, commonly used in settings that are similar to T8 tubes. The phasing out of T5 fluorescent tubes is due to begin at the beginning of next year, which is forecast to impact many businesses.

Disposing of mercury lamps safely

Responsibly disposing of mercury-containing lamps is a legal requirement for safety and environmental protection. Plus, the responsibility of their correct disposal falls on the individual and organisation. Incorrect disposal of hazardous waste can lead to penalties, fines or prosecutions, with the exact amounts and circumstances dependent on your local authority’s regulations.

In the UK, any waste containing mercury must be kept separate from household or commercial waste in a secure container and disposed of safely. Options include:

CEF: The only electrical wholesalers with an in-house recycling facility that’s recognised by the Environment Agency and DEFRA.

Your local authority’s hazardous waste disposal centre: You can search for your local authority’s approved hazardous waste collection on the government website.

A hazardous waste collection service: There are options on the market that specialise in safely managing the disposal of mercury, too.

A helping hand in the safe disposal of mercury lamps

If you have lighting that contains mercury, we can change it and ensure that it’s being recycled correctly. Think about changing all lamps that contain mercury at once, so you can be sure that none are accidentally disposed of in the wrong way.

Every mercury-containing lamp that we remove for our customers will be delivered to our safe disposal partner, CEF.

Understanding the part we play in adhering to environmental regulations is the first step to a safer, cleaner and brighter future. Let’s see how many mercury-containing lamps we can save from damaging our environment.

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