Crushing and breaking fluorescent lamps release mercury vapor and mercury-containing phosphor powder. These can be difficult to contain. Keeping lamps intact until they reach a qualified recycling facility prevents mercury exposure to workers and the environment.
Requirements for recycling intact lamps under the Universal Waste Rule (Washington Administrative Code 173-303-573) are streamlined compared to requirements for managing crushed lamps. Crushing lamps on-site is considered a "treatment-by-generator" activity, subject to full regulation under the Dangerous Waste Regulations (Washington Administrative Code 173-303). Crushed lamps must be managed as dangerous waste unless they designate non-dangerous.