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The City of Portland, Oregon

Sustainability at Work

Providing free tools and expertise to achieve your goals

Phone: 503-823-7037


Is that lightbulb hazardous waste?

At some point, most of us have stood over the garbage can holding a half-empty can of oven cleaner or a burned-out compact fluorescent bulb and wondered, “Is dropping this in here really okay?”

Examples of hazardous wasteSometimes the answer is a strong, “No.” A partially full can of oven cleaner, complete with its many warning messages, might be an obvious no-no, but you may be dismissing many products as harmless when they are, in fact, hazardous.

Two hazardous items our sustainability advisors sometimes see in the trash are fluorescent bulbs (cfls, tube lighting, etc.) and leftover paint. The bulbs likely contain mercury. The paint might be able to be remixed and reused. These are just a few of the reasons that we encourage businesses to identify and develop a safe and consistent way to dispose of hazardous waste in their workplaces.

Taking care with these products not only protects you and your staff, but also all of the people “downstream” from whatever you discard — janitorial and building staff, waste and recycling workers, and the general public. Safely disposing of these items also minimizes the impact they could have on plants, birds, aquatic animals, bees, etc.

Contacting Metro is one of the best ways to identify what is or isn’t hazardous, and to learn how to safely dispose of it. It’s much better to be sure than to guess. Metro recycling staff can be reached at (503) 234-3000 or through their webpage at Metro’s Find A Recycler.

MetroPaintYou’ll learn that some hazardous waste can even be reused. MetroPaint is one of our favorite examples of this. Close the loop by donating leftover paint to Metro and then buying a “new” can of MetroPaint for your next project.

Images courtesy of Metro