California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) 

Profiles of Used Oil/HHW  Projects

Santa Clara County's Retail Fluorescent Lighting/Battery Collection Program

In 2003-2004, Santa Clara County (SCC) launched a Recycling Partners Program to provide residents with free collection of batteries and fluorescent lighting at retail stores. SCC was awarded a CIWMB grant to implement this program in anticipation of the 2006 California landfill ban on batteries, fluorescent lighting and other mercury-containing products. An integral part of this program was the county's public information campaign explaining mercury pollution and promoting Recycling Partner collection locations. During the grant term, 36 SCC Recycling Partners collected almost 38,000 pounds of fluorescent lamps and more than 9,400 pounds of batteries from county residents.

How to Recruit Retail Take-back Partners

During the grant term, SCC recruited a total of 17 fluorescent lighting collection Partners and 19 battery collection Partners. To recruit partners, the county's outreach specialist contacted dozens of stores within Santa Clara County that sell fluorescent lighting, batteries and battery-containing products. She also recruited community and senior centers to collect batteries only. All interested parties were then given a briefing about the Recycling Partners program.

At briefings, the outreach specialist outlined the Recycling Partner Program, showed the store manager fluorescent lighting and/or battery collection containers and mercury clean-up kits and toured their facilities with them to discuss potential placement of collection containers. During briefings the following points were emphasized:

  • New regulations prohibit disposal of fluorescent lighting, thermometers and other mercury-containing in landfills.
  • Partners benefit from increased foot traffic and retail sales.
  • Partners receive free advertising via their listing on SCC brochures, flyers, and website.
  • Participation in the Recycling Partners Program is free and SCC County handles everything--providing start-up supplies, fluorescent lighting and battery pickup and packaging, box replacement for fluorescent lighting and bucket replacement for batteries.
  • The collection containers do not take up much horizontal space, typically two four feet boxes for fluorescent lamps and one or two 5 gallon buckets for batteries. Participating stores usually place collection containers in the back of their facilities.
  • SCC staff supply required labels and track battery/lighting collection.
  • Partners can either call SCC staff when they need lamp or battery pickup or schedule regular bimonthly pickups.
  • Retailers are already benefiting from participation (a list of current Partners is provided).

At smaller independent stores, typically the manager made the decision to join the Recycling Partner Program while at larger chain stores (Orchard Supply Hardware, Wolf Camera, Radio Shack), either the manager or a corporate supervisor made the decision to participate.

Recycling Partner Recruitment Materials that Grantees Can Use

Store managers agreeing to collect fluorescent lighting were required to sign a Fluorescent Light Voluntary Recycling Program Agreement, provide proof of insurance, and were given an informational binder containing the following:

  • Cover sheet describing fluorescent lighting, broken lamp clean-up measures, and important telephone numbers;
  • Fluorescent Light Voluntary Recycling Program Agreement;
  • Checklist of binder contents and items to be provided in the future to aid with take-back program's success;
  • Introduction letter;
  • "Don't Forget" check-off page;
  • Fluorescent lamp drop-off log;
  • Mercury related educational materials;
  • Small Business HWR&D Program brochure; and
  • List of businesses that accept large quantities of fluorescent lighting/batteries.

Store managers who agreed to collect batteries likewise were required to sign a Battery Voluntary Recycling Program Agreement and provide proof of insurance. They were given a battery-oriented information binder similar to that of lighting Partners. SCC student assistants put together the binders at an approximate materials cost of $2.70 per binder.

Recycling Partner Fluorescent Lamp Collection

During the grant term, 17 Recycling Partners collected a total of 37,774 pounds of fluorescent lamps from residents over 18 months. SCC provided each lamp collection Partner with cardboard storage boxes, plastic box liners, universal waste labels and clean-up kits for broken lamps. Partners were also given a bill of lading for transporting lamps as universal waste and adhesive fluorescent lamp inventory labels to paste on storage boxes.

The adhesive inventory labels allowed Partner employees to record lamp quantities by type as they placed them into boxes, eliminating the need to count them for tracking purposes during pick-ups. When Partners' fluorescent lighting boxes were full, they simply called the county, which sent staff to pick them up and transport them to an SCC HHW facility. Once lighting and bulbs reached a critical mass at the SCC facility, they were transported to a recycler.

Before signing on as Recycling Partners, Orchard Supply Hardware (OSH) store managers worried that small businesses would try to drop their spent fluorescent lighting and batteries at OSH stores. To prevent this, SCC altered its poster and website to specifically state that fluorescent lighting and battery collection at Recycling Partners was for residents only. In Recycling Partner binders, SCC staff included a list of recyclers Partners could refer businesses to. SCC also notified businesses about free fluorescent lighting and battery drop-off events at its HHW collection facilities.

When OSH managers expressed concern about lamp breakage in their stores, SCC provided them with smaller boxes so they could separate compact, circular, and u-shaped fluorescent bulbs from straight tubes during collection. To reduce the chance of lamp breakage, residents were directed to bring their used lamps to the front counter immediately upon entering stores instead of wandering around with them.

Only one Partner stopped collecting fluorescent lamps during the grant term, reportedly due to the hassle of residents dropping them off. Another retailer liked collecting lamps so much he asked to collect batteries as well. During the grant term, three locations served as both fluorescent lighting and battery collection sites.

Recycling Partner Battery Collection

Nineteen Recycling Partners collected a total of 9,430 pounds of batteries over 18 months. SCC supplied each partner with a five gallon bucket and lid with a hole drilled into it for battery insertion. SCC covered the cost of battery hauling. Only one retailer dropped out of the program during the grant term due to a change in management.

Informing the Public about Recycling Partner Fluorescent Lighting and Battery Collection

SCC used a combination of mass media advertising and person-to-person outreach to educate residents about mercury pollution and encourage them to drop off lamps and batteries at Recycling Partner sites. Mass media outlets included radio, newspaper and bus advertisements, city utility bill inserts and published articles. SCC staff distributed an educational brochure at HHW collection facilities, community meetings and events, school events and health fairs. They also distributed door hangers in neighborhoods and brochures to businesses to advertise battery and fluorescent lighting collection events at SCC facilities.

SCC outreach materials described the hazards of mercury pollution in our environment, showed mercury-containing products that should not be put in the trash and provided a hotline number and web address listing the places, addresses and hours of operation where mercury-containing products should be disposed. SCC partnered with the Santa Clara Valley Urban Runoff Pollution Prevention Program to create a "Got Bulbs?" poster that Recycling Partners displayed within their establishments. The poster informed customers about the free fluorescent lamp and battery collection service offered inside. A "Frequently Asked Questions about Mercury" fact sheet was also posted in the Mercury Education section of SCC's Household Hazardous Waste Program website.

Recycling Partners Program Continues

Beyond the grant term, SCC has continued to fund its Recycling Partners Program with a portion of its AB939 solid waste tipping fees. The county's annual cost of maintaining this program is approximately $300,000. This figure includes supplies, signage, recruiting new partners, maintaining current partners, conducting outreach, pick-up and recycling of lamps/batteries, managing the program, etc. Lighting Partners no longer use lamp liners as they take up space and create extra work for their employees. Partners have found that storage boxes provide adequate protection for fluorescent lamps. Currently either SCC staff or a contractor picks up collected lamps and batteries at Partner sites. When a contractor picks up the waste, they transport it to the recycler directly.

Since assuming full funding of its Recycling Partners Program, SCC has increased the number of Partners collecting lamps from 17 to 30 and those collecting batteries from 19 to 50. All but four Partners have continued to participate in the program since its inception. During the last six months of 2006, Recycling Partners collected 24,687 pounds of lamps and 9,440 pounds of batteries.

For more information about the SCC Recycling Partners Program or to obtain electronic copies of Recycling Partner Program materials, contact Wendy Fong of the SCC Household Hazardous Waste Program at (408) 918-1968 or

Last updated: November 25, 2007
Used Oil and HHW Grants
Contact: (916) 341-5062