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A Bright Idea: Fairfax County Recycles its Fluorescent Bulbs

Fairfax County Office of Public Affairs
12000 Government Center Parkway, Suite 551
Fairfax, VA 22035-0065
703-324-3187, TTY 703-324-2935, FAX 703-324-2010

Jan. 3, 2005

A Bright Idea: Fairfax County Recycles its Fluorescent Bulbs

Fairfax County recently had a bright idea to protect the environment. This fall the county instituted a program to recycle the fluorescent bulbs used in its buildings.

By installing these energy-saving bulbs, the county already saves money and helps protect the environment. However, officials thought dimly about dumping these bulbs into our waste stream because fluorescent bulbs contain trace amounts of mercury.

The new Fluorescent Lamp Management Program, created by the Fairfax County Facilities Management Division, aims to recycle approximately 20,000 bulbs per year. Since its kick off in September, the program already has reached one-quarter of its annual goal — recycling 5,000 bulbs so far. The county’s new program makes it an environmental leader. Nationwide, only 20 percent of all fluorescent bulbs are recycled, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

“Fairfax County demonstrates its commitment to environmental stewardship by focusing on the appropriate management of mercury in the bulbs while supporting ‘green purchasing’ policies,” said Mike Harkness, assistant director of the county’s Facilities Management Division. “This is a good program for businesses to adopt to prevent pollution in the county.”

All fluorescent bulbs contain small quantities of mercury, a toxic metal that in large amounts can be harmful to people and animals. Mercury is necessary to make these bulbs shine. The county, though, makes a point of purchasing “green tip” bulbs that contain the least amount of mercury possible.

The county’s new recycling program recovers the mercury from fluorescent bulbs for reuse. The remaining components are recycled or disposed of according to federal and state environmental regulations.

County businesses and residents can recycle their own fluorescent bulbs at either of the county’s waste management complexes, located at 4618 West Ox Road in Fairfax or 9850 Furnace Road in Lorton.

For more information about household waste that can be recycled, visit, or call the Fairfax County Solid Waste Management Program at 703-324-5230, TTY 711.

For additional information about the Fluorescent Lamp Management Program, contact Mike Harkness or Dennis Presley with the Fairfax County Facilities Management Division at 703-293-8060, TTY 711.


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