OLR Research Report

November 12, 2009




By: Meghan Reilly, Legislative Analyst II

You asked about state law and Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) policy in use and disposal of incandescent and fluorescent bulbs and whether DEP is considering new regulations on the issue. You also wanted to know what bills have been introduced recently on this issue and what actions were taken on them.


State law requires businesses to manage fluorescent lamps as a hazardous waste, preferably by recycling them. Residential customers may treat the lamps like other garbage, but are encouraged to bring them to a local hazardous waste collection program. Compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs), which contain mercury, are subject to labeling requirements. CFLs are also tax-exempt. DEP encourages the use of CFLs, but presently has no plans to ban incandescent bulbs in the state.

Since 2006, the legislature considered seven bills regarding CFL use that did not become law. Those bills would have provided tax credits, amended the State Building Code, required a study on use of CFLs in schools, encouraged school districts to participate in CFL fundraisers, and required a study on pricing and efficiency of bulbs.


Fluorescent bulbs come in various shapes and sizes, including traditional, two, four, or eight-foot-long “tube” bulbs and newer “compact” fluorescent lights (CFLs) that screw in like a regular incandescent bulb.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, lighting accounts for approximately 17% of residential electric consumption nationally. CFLs that meet federal Energy Star standards use one-third or less of the amount of energy that standard incandescent bulbs use to provide the same amount of light, and CFLs last up to 10 times longer.  In addition, CFLs generate 70% less heat than incandescent lights and can cut energy costs associated with home cooling. Further information on CFLs and the Energy Star program is available at http: //www. energystar. gov/index. cfm?c=cfls. pr_cfls.

The average Connecticut homeowner would save about 45 kilowatt-hours and about $9 per year for each CFL installed, according to United Illuminating energy conservation staff (the savings would be similar for Connecticut Light & Power customers).  A 2004 survey conducted for the two utilities found that the average home has 56 interior light sockets, of which on average 52 had incandescent bulbs.  While not all light fixtures are suitable for CFLs, if Connecticut homeowners replaced the bulk of their incandescent lights with CFLs they could save several hundred dollars per year.

Incandescent bulbs include traditional screw-in line bulbs, in various sizes and shapes (e.g., round bulbs, and cone-shaped flood and spot lights), and include traditional tungsten-element light bulbs and halogen lamps (http://www.ct.gov/dep/cwp/view.asp?a=2718&q=325496&depNav_GID=1646#LightBulbs).


According to DEP, businesses must manage fluorescent lamps as a hazardous waste, usually by recycling them. Fluorescent lamps are considered a hazardous waste because they contain mercury, a toxic substance. Fluorescent lamps removed from commercial, industrial, or institutional facilities are considered “universal waste.” This refers to a type of hazardous waste present in great volume that is generated in a

wide variety of settings from a large number of sources. When disposed of, these products are subject to less stringent requirements than other types of hazardous waste (Conn. Agency Regs. 22a-449(c)-113).

DEP regulates low-mercury fluorescent lamps not technically considered hazardous waste through solid waste regulations (Conn. Agencies Regs. 22a-209-17) that parallel the hazardous waste regulations. In practice, businesses must treat discarded fluorescent lamps as a universal waste. It is less expensive for businesses to recycle fluorescent lamps than discard them as hazardous waste.

Fluorescent lamps generated from residential sources are not subject to the universal waste rule. Homeowners may therefore simply throw away used fluorescent lamps. But DEP recommends that people dispose of fluorescent lamps by bringing them to a local household hazardous waste collection program. A limited number of towns will also accept them at their transfer stations.

CFLs are accepted at household hazardous waste collections (http://www.ct.gov/dep/cwp/view.asp?a=2718&q=325448&depNav_GID=1646).  Some municipalities offer recycling of CFLs and other fluorescent lamps at their transfer stations or other drop sites.  In 2008, The Home Depot began a collection program for CFLs, regardless of the brand or where the CFL was purchased.  IKEA stores also accept CFLs for recycling.

Incandescent bulbs may be disposed of in the regular trash.


DEP encourages the use of CFLs. The DEP website lists installation of CFLs as “a simple way for homeowners to reduce their energy bills while also doing something beneficial for the environment” (http://www.ct.gov/dep/cwp/view.asp?a=2708&q=378846&depNav_GID=1763). According to the DEP, the department has no current plans to ban incandescent bulbs.


Tax Exemption

The state exempts CFLs from the sales tax (CGS 12-412k). CFLs were temporarily exempted from the state sales tax by PA 05-02 and PA 05-4, October 25, 2005 Special Session and then permanently exempted by PA 07-242.


The law requires manufacturers of electric lamps containing mercury, in consultation with DEP and the Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority, to notify their distributors in writing that the lamps contain mercury. They also had to make the information available to consumers by providing it (1) on each lamp, (2) on or in the packaging of each lamp, or (3) to retailers as printed material in sufficient quantity to provide to customers buying such lamps (PA 99-228, CGS 22a-209g).

The law establishes a comprehensive scheme of labeling and other requirements for many products that contain mercury. Among other things, it required that products to which mercury has been intentionally added and their packaging be labeled as to their mercury content. The manufacturer is generally responsible for meeting the labeling requirements. But manufacturers of (1) fluorescent lights need only label the packaging and (2) products containing a lamp used for backlighting that contain mercury that cannot be removed must place the label on the product or in its care-and-use manual (PA 02-90, CGS 22a-612, et seq.).

The law additionally requires any person who sells mercury-added lamps (regardless of whether they must be labeled or not) to the owner or manager of any industrial, commercial, or office building, or to anyone who replaces or removes from service outdoor lamps containing mercury, to notify the buyer in writing that the lamp contains mercury. The notice can be on the invoice or in a separate document. It must state that mercury is a hazardous substance regulated by federal and state law and that the lamp must not be disposed of as solid waste. This requirement does not apply to retail establishments that incidentally sell mercury-added lamps. Any person who contracts with the owner or manager of an industrial, commercial, or office building, or with a person responsible for outdoor lighting, to remove lamps containing mercury from service must provide written notice to the person for whom the work is being done that the lamps contain mercury, and of his plans to manage the mercury in the removed lamps.


Since 2006, the legislature considered seven bills regarding CFL use that did not become law.


HB 5937, An Act Concerning an Income Tax Credit for the Purchase of Compact Fluorescent Bulbs, provided a $10 credit against the state income tax for the purchase of at least one six-pack of CFLs with wattage between 40 and 100. The bill was referred to the Energy and Technology Committee, where no action was taken.

HB 6407, An Act Concerning Energy Efficiency Measures in the State Building Code, required that the State Building Code be revised to require (1) new home construction of at least 3,000 square feet to include an electricity demand meter and (2) all new home, condominium, and apartment construction to use compact fluorescent bulbs. The bill began in the Environment Committee and was referred by the House to the Public Safety Committee, where no action was taken.

sHB 7098, An Act Concerning Connecticut's Energy Future, permanently exempted compact fluorescent light bulbs from the sales tax. The bill was favorably reported from the committees on Energy and Technology; Environment; Appropriations; and Finance, Revenue, and Bonding; it was tabled in the House and no further action was taken. 2007's HB 7432, PA 07-242, successfully created the permanent exemption.

sHB 7309, An Act Concerning Pay As You Save and Energy Efficiency Recommendations, required the Energy Conservation Management Board (ECMB) to, among other things, determine the feasibility, in consultation with the Education Department, of providing compact fluorescent light bulbs at low or no cost to schools as part of a statewide school fundraiser and report findings to the Education and Energy and Technology committee by February 1, 2008. The bill was favorably reported by the Energy and Technology Committee and referred by the House to the Committee on Finance, Revenue and Bonding, which took no action.

sSB 1374, An Act Concerning Electricity Procurement and Energy Efficiency, required the State Department of Education, by September 1, 2007, to encourage and solicit school districts, individual schools, and other public educational institutions to participate in a statewide CFL fundraiser. It required the department to consult with the Department of Public Utility Control, electric companies, and interested CFL manufacturers in developing this program. DPUC, in consultation with the Education Department and ECMB, was required to develop and implement a statewide fundraiser for all elementary and secondary schools in which students sell CFLs, with the participating schools keeping part of each sale. DPUC had to establish a sales target for the fundraiser and adopt regulations to determine the program's parameters. The bill was favorably reported from the Energy and Technology committee but no action was taken by the Senate.

sSB 1432, An Act Concerning Global Warming and Brownfields Remediation and Development, required the DEP commissioner to (1) study the availability of compact fluorescent, halogen, and high-intensity discharge lamps at competitive prices for consumers and (2) compile a list of inefficient incandescent light bulbs. The commissioner, by April 1, 2008, was required to provide notice of the preliminary draft of the list on the DEP website and in a newspaper of general circulation. The commissioner then had to submit a final list, with reasons for the final decision, to the Environment Committee and to everyone who submitted written comments on the preliminary draft. The bill does not state whether the Environment Committee must approve the final list.

The bill received a joint favorable substitute change of reference from the Environment Committee to the Government Administration and Elections Committee, where a substitute was favorably reported. It was then referred by the Senate to the Planning and Development Committee, where a substitute was favorably reported. It was then referred to the Finance, Revenue, and Bonding Committee, which favorably reported a substitute. It was then referred to the Judiciary Committee, where no action was taken.



HB 5065, An Act Concerning an Income Tax Credit for the Purchase of Compact Fluorescent Bulbs, provided a $10 credit against the state income tax for the purchase of at least one six-pack of CFLs with wattage between 40 and 100. The bill was referred to the Energy and Technology Committee, where no action was taken.