Glossary of Terms

Glossary-These are not legal definitions, but are provided to assist the reader.

Ballast - A device used with an electric-discharge lamp to obtain the necessary circuit conditions (voltage, current, and waveform) for starting and operating (source: IESNA Lighting Handbook, 9th Edition, 2000, page G-3).  Typically, the ballast is the dense rectangular box in a lighting fixture, which may contain a copper winding, a core and potting compound.  Older ballasts contained a capacitor filled with PCBs, but these have not been made since 1978; replaced with electronic ballasts.

The Clean Water Act - Growing public awareness and concern for controlling water pollution led to enactment of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act Amendments of 1972.  As amended in 1977, this law became commonly known as the Clean Water Act.  The Act established the basic structure for regulating discharges of pollutants into the waters of the United States.  It gave EPA the authority to implement pollution control programs such as setting wastewater standards for industry.  The Clean Water Act also continued requirements to set water quality standards for pollutants in surface waters.  The Act made it unlawful for any person to discharge any pollutant from a point source into navigable waters, unless a permit was obtained under its provisions. It also funded the construction of sewage treatment plants under the construction grants program and recognized the need for planning to address the critical problems posed by non-point source pollution.

Characteristic or Hazardous Waste Characteristic - Any one of the four categories used in defining hazardous waste: ignitability, corrosivity, reactivity, and toxicity.  Characteristics are determined by specific analytical testing on the waste and comparing the results to regulatory thresholds.  Studies conducted indicate that many fluorescent and high intensity discharge (HID) lamps exhibit the toxicity characteristic (TC) for mercury because of the use of that compound in producing these mercury-containing lamps.  See the definition for Toxicity Characteristic Leaching Procedure.

Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) - Document that codifies all rules of the executive departments and agencies of the federal government.  It is divided into fifty volumes, known as titles.  Title 40 of the CFR (referenced as 40 CFR) lists all environmental regulations.

Compact Fluorescent Lamp (CFL) - Small fluorescent lamps used as more efficient alternatives to incandescent lighting.  Also called PL, CFL, Twin-Tube, or BIAX lamps.

Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA) - The U.S. Federal law that authorizes EPA to cleanup uncontrolled or abandoned hazardous waste sites and respond to accidents, spills and other emergency releases of hazardous substances.  Also known as Superfund, the program activities include establishing the National Priorities List, investigating sites for inclusion on the list, determining their priority, and conducting and/or supervising cleanup and other remedial actions.  CERCLA established a comprehensive liability scheme that authorizes the government to hold identified categories of parties liable to conduct and/or pay for cleanup of releases of hazardous substances, pollutants and contaminants.

Conditionally Exempt Small Quantity Generator (CESQG) - A generator that produces no more than 100 kg [220 lb] of hazardous waste, or no more than 1 kg [2.2 lb] of acutely hazardous waste, per calendar month. Please see 40 CFR 261.5 for the specific applicability. (If all the hazardous waste was comprised of 4-foot fluorescent lamps, this would translate to 350-450 lamps, depending on diameter.)  CESQGs are exempt from many of the requirements for hazardous waste generators provided they comply with certain conditions specified in the RCRA Subtitle C regulations and their state regulations.

Crushing - This is the intentional breaking of fluorescent and mercury lamps for the purpose of volume reduction.  Crushing reduces the physical volume of lamps but does not recover any mercury. In order for lamps to be managed under the Universal Waste Rule, “treatment” by handlers or transporters is not allowed. Under federal regulations, crushing is considered a type of treatment.  Generally, anyone who “treats” their lamp waste is not considered a “handler” under the UWR and is subject to full Subtitle C hazardous waste requirements.  Crushing is not recycling, but it can be a step in the treatment process when the crushed material is further treated by a recycling process that includes retorting.  Under no circumstances can the crushed lamps be land filled as municipal solid waste.  Handlers may crush their lamps in states that have authorized regulations allowing controlled crushing under the UWR. 

Destination Facility - A state or federally-permitted processing, recycling or disposal facility.  A destination facility is subject to requirements similar to a “Treatment, Storage, and Disposal Facility (TSDF),” permitting requirements, Land Disposal Restrictions (LDR), and other provisions under Subtitle C (40 CFR 273 Subpart E).

Drum-Top Crushing - This is typically done by using a mechanical device that fits on top of a 55-gallon collection drum.  Whole lamps are broken in the system but components are not separated, and the drum will contain hazardous mercury, phosphor powder, glass and mixed metals.  Crushing lamps into drums releases mercury into the filter.  This filter medium also becomes hazardous.

Generator - Any person, by site, whose act or process produces hazardous waste, identified or listed in 40 CFR 261, or whose act first causes a hazardous waste to become subject to regulation.  The generator definition can be found at 40 CFR 260.10.  A lamp generator can be considered a Small Quantity Handler of Universal Waste (SQHUW) or a Large Quantity Handler of Universal Waste (LQHUW) depending on how many spent lamps are produced in a year and whether they are accumulated.  Standards applicable to RCRA generators are found at 40 CFR 262.  Universal waste handler requirements are found at 40 CFR 273 Subparts B and C.

Hazardous Waste - In general, a waste with properties that make it dangerous, or capable of having a harmful effect on human health and the environment.  It is a by-product of society that can pose a substantial or potential hazard to human health or the environment when improperly managed.  Under the RCRA program, hazardous wastes are specifically defined as wastes that meet a particular listing description or that exhibit a characteristic of hazardous waste (ignitability, corrosivity, reactivity, or toxicity).  Please see 40 CFR 261 Subparts C and D and Section 1004(5) of RCRA.

Heavy Metals - Metallic elements with high atomic weights (e.g., mercury, chromium, cadmium, arsenic, and lead).  They can be harmful to living things at low concentrations and tend to accumulate in the food chain.  Trace heavy metals are sometimes found in the emissions from solid waste combustion units or in leachate.

High Intensity Discharge (HID) - Lamps containing mercury and possibly lead solder. They may fail the Toxicity Characteristic Leaching Procedure (TCLP) for mercury and/or lead, unless marked.  HID lamps are typically the very bright and often very large globular lamps seen in parking lots, warehouses, and stadiums.

Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) - Hazardous products used and disposed of by residential as opposed to industrial consumers.  These are leftover household products that contain corrosive, toxic, ignitable, or reactive ingredients.  HHW includes paints, stains, varnishes, solvents, pesticides, and other materials or products containing volatile chemicals that may catch fire, react, or explode.  Many communities offer no-cost recycling and disposal options for individual households, and low-cost handling for small businesses.

Integrated Solid Waste Management - A systematic approach to the management of solid waste that combines and integrates source reduction, reuse, recycling, composting, energy recovery and landfilling in order to conserve and recover resources and dispose of solid waste in a manner that protects human health and the environment.

Lamp or Universal Waste (UW) Lamp - The bulb or tube portion of an electric lighting device.  A lamp is specifically designed to produce radiant energy, most often in the ultraviolet, visible, and infrared regions of the electromagnetic spectrum.  Examples of common universal waste electric lamps include, but are not limited to, fluorescent, high intensity discharge, neon, mercury vapor, high pressure sodium, and metal halide lamps. The lamp definition is found at 40 CFR 273.9.

All fluorescent lamps contain some amount of mercury.  Unless otherwise marked, these lamps will likely fail EPA’s Toxicity Characteristic Leaching Procedure (TCLP) for mercury, and unless exempted, they must be handled as a hazardous waste.  Depending on date of manufacture, some lamps that pass the TCLP test may be marked in green, either as an etch on the glass, or as a colored base.  In some circumstances these lamps may be handled as ordinary solid waste.  All mercury-containing lamps, whether hazardous or not, will release mercury into the environment when broken outside of a controlled recycling process.  EPA encourages recycling all mercury-containing lamps.

Lamp Recycling - Removes the toxic mercury component from lamps, and separates the metal end caps, phosphor powder and glass for re-use in other applications. Retorted mercury is sold into the secondary metals market, where it is refined and reused in other mercury-containing products, including lamps.

Land Ban - Phasing out of land disposal of most untreated hazardous wastes, as mandated by the 1984 RCRA amendments.  Please see 40 CFR 268.

Land Disposal Restrictions - Rules that require hazardous wastes to be treated before disposal on land to destroy or immobilize hazardous constituents that might migrate into soil and ground water.  Please see 40 CFR 268.

Landfill - 1. Disposal sites for non-hazardous solid wastes spread in layers, compacted to the smallest practical volume, and covered by material applied at the end of each operating day. See MSWLF below.  2. Secure disposal sites for hazardous waste, selected and designed to minimize the chance of release of hazardous substances into the environment.

Landfill Gas - Gas that is produced when organic waste materials naturally decompose in a municipal solid waste landfill.  Landfill gas is approximately 50 percent methane, the primary component of natural gas, and 50 percent carbon dioxide.  Landfill gas can be collected and used as a fuel for heating or generating electricity.

Large Quantity Generator (LQG) - Persons or facilities that generate 1,000 kg (2,200 lb) or more of hazardous waste per calendar month, or more than 1 kg (2.2 lb) of acutely hazardous waste per calendar month.  Such generators produce about 90 percent of the nation's hazardous waste, and are subject to all RCRA requirements.  LQG requirements are found in 40 CFR 262.

Large Quantity Handler of Universal Waste (LQHUW) - A universal waste handler (a generator or third party) who accumulates 5,000 kg (11,000 lb) or more total of universal waste (batteries, pesticides, thermostats, or lamps calculated collectively) at any time. This designation as a LQHUW is retained through the end of the calendar year in which 5,000 kg or more total of universal waste is accumulated.  The definition for LQHUW can be found at 40 CFR 273.9.  An EPA ID is required, and state registration may also be required.  Employees are required to have training and information on proper handling and emergency procedures. Proper marking and labeling of universal waste is required. LQHUW requirements are found at 40 CFR 273 Subpart C.

Leachate - Liquid that collects contaminants as it percolates through or drains from solid waste, pesticides or fertilizers.  Leachate often contains suspended or dissolved waste materials and may occur in farming areas, feedlots, and landfills.  Leaching may result in hazardous substances entering surface water, ground water, or soil if it is not controlled.

Lighting Retrofit - A retrofit involves modifying the existing luminaire, or lighting fixture, usually by replacing inefficient lamps and ballasts with more efficient ones, adding reflectors and removing unnecessary lamps. A replacement means replacing the entire luminaire with a new energy-efficient product.

Mercury (Hg) - Also known as "quicksilver," this metal is used in the paper pulp and chemical industries, in the manufacture of thermometers, thermostats, high efficiency lighting and many other products and fungicides.  In lighting, mercury is what makes them energy efficient.  Mercury exists in three biologically important forms, elemental, inorganic and organic.  Mercury is toxic to humans.  Overexposure to mercury can affect the nervous system, kidneys and other organs.  Mercury accumulates in animals that are high in the food chain (i.e., predators).  Human exposure to mercury is largely due to eating contaminated fish.

Municipal Solid Waste - This means household waste, other types of non-hazardous wastes, such as commercial solid waste and non-hazardous industrial wastes as well as hazardous waste from exempted households and CESQGs.

Municipal Solid Waste Landfill (MWSLF) - A sanitary landfill that receives municipal solid waste such as household waste. A municipal solid waste landfill may also receive other types of non-hazardous wastes, such as commercial solid waste and non-hazardous industrial wastes as well as hazardous waste from households and CESQGs.  Municipal solid waste landfills in the U.S. are required to meet the criteria established under Subtitle D of RCRA at 40 CFR 258.  These criteria ensure that such landfills are designed and operated to protect human health and the environment.  The criteria establish requirements in seven aspects of MSWLFs: location, operation, design, ground water monitoring, corrective action, closure and post-closure, and financial assurance.

Product Stewardship - A product-centered approach that calls on all those in the product life cycle (e.g., manufacturers, retailers, users and waste managers) to share responsibility and costs for reducing the adverse environmental impacts of products.  From a solid waste management perspective, product stewardship involves the actions taken to improve the design and manufacture of products to facilitate either their reuse, recycling or disposal, as well as actions to establish programs to collect, process and reuse or recycle products when they are discarded.

Recycle - Minimizing waste generation by recovering and reprocessing waste into usable products that might otherwise become waste (e.g., recycling of aluminum cans, paper, and bottles, etc.).

Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) - A 1976 amendment to the first federal solid waste legislation, the Solid Waste Disposal Act of 1965. In RCRA, Congress established initial directives and guidelines for EPA to regulate and manage solid waste, including hazardous waste. RCRA established a regulatory system to track hazardous substances from the time of generation to final disposal. The law requires safe and secure procedures to be used in treating, transporting, storing and disposing of hazardous wastes. RCRA was designed to prevent new superfund sites.

Reverse Distribution - The take-back by any electrical distributor, intermediate or retailer who sells energy-efficient lighting for the purposes of recycling.  In the U.S., if these products classify as hazardous waste, it is the responsibility of the owner to manage the waste correctly; and contractors involved may share that legal responsibility. While distributors have no specific legal responsibility for end-of-life management of the lamps they sell (except for lamps in their own facilities), distributors and retailers can be influential in assisting customers with recycling options through reverse distribution.

Small Quantity Generator (SQG) - A generator who generates greater than 100 kg and less than 1000 kg (2,200 lb) of hazardous waste in a calendar month.  The SQG definition is found at 40 CFR 260.10 and requirements are found at 40 CFR 262. The regulatory requirements for SQGs are less stringent than the requirements for facilities considered Large Quantity Generators.

Small Quantity Handler of Universal Waste (SQHUW) - A universal waste handler (a generator or third party) who accumulates less than 5,000 kg (11,000 lb) total of universal waste (batteries, pesticides, thermostats, or lamps calculated collectively) at any time.  No EPA ID is required. Storage time for the waste is up to one year. Employees are required to have minimal training and information on handling and emergency procedures.  Proper marking and labeling of universal waste is required.  SQHUW requirements are found at 40 CFR 273 Subpart B.

Solid Waste - Defined in RCRA to include any garbage, refuse, sludge, and other discarded material, including solid, liquid, semisolid, or contained gaseous material, resulting from industrial, commercial, mining, and agricultural operations and from community activities.  RCRA also excludes certain materials from the definition of solid waste.  Please see Section 1004(27) of RCRA.

Specifiers - Any designer or engineer who specifies energy-efficient lighting for buildings.  They often interface with building owners, contractors, and electrical distributors, and are frequently involved in designing and commissioning lighting or the selection of lighting for retrofits.  Since components contain some combination of mercury, cadmium, antimony and lead, specifiers should include environmental considerations and proper recycling or disposal when lamps are being selected for a project.

Subtitle C - The subtitle or portion of RCRA that requires EPA to establish regulations regarding the management of hazardous waste.  Please see 40 CFR 261 and 262.

Subtitle D - The subtitle or portion of RCRA that deals with the management of municipal and other non-hazardous waste and requires EPA to establish criteria for sanitary landfills, including MSWLFs that ensure that such landfills are designed and operated to protect human health and the environment.   Please see 40 CFR 258.

Superfund -  See definition for CERCLA.

Toxicity Characteristic Leaching Procedure (TCLP) - A lab procedure designed to determine whether a solid waste is a hazardous waste based on the concentrations of certain levels of toxic chemicals leaching from the waste.  This is a federal test to determine if a waste exhibits the Toxicity Characteristic (TC).  See the definition for Characteristic.  If the concentration of a toxic substance in a special extract of a waste exceeds certain regulatory levels, the waste exhibits the characteristic of “toxicity.”  It is therefore classified as “hazardous” in the United States (a "RCRA waste").  The regulatory level for mercury is 0.2mg/L.  The extraction procedure is different from that of the California Waste Extraction Test (WET).

Transporter - Hauling firm that picks up properly packaged and labeled hazardous or universal wastes from generators or handlers and transports it for 10 days or less to designated facilities for treatment, storage, or disposal.  Hazardous waste transporters are subject to EPA and Department of Transportation (DOT) hazardous waste regulations. See 40 CFR 263.  Universal Waste transporters are subject to less restrictive standards, similar to common carriers.  See Universal Waste Transporter definition below.

Transfer Facility or Universal Waste Transfer Facility - Any transportation-related facility including loading docks, parking areas, storage areas and other similar areas where shipments of universal waste are held during the normal course of transportation for ten days or less.  The definition for a transfer facility is found at 40 CFR 273.9 and requirements are found at 40 CFR 273.53.

Treatment, Storage, and Disposal Facility (TSDF) - Site where a hazardous substance is treated, stored, or disposed of. TSDFs are regulated by EPA and states under RCRA.

Universal Wastes - Several widely generated hazardous wastes identified by EPA that are subject to streamlined requirements for collection, storage and processing if they are recycled under the Universal Waste Rule.  Batteries, certain pesticides, thermostats and mercury-containing lamps have been designated as universal wastes under the federal rule. The goal of the rule is to encourage recycling of these universal wastes rather than disposal.

Universal Waste Handler - Generally speaking, anyone who produces, stores, collects, or accumulates universal waste such as mercury-containing lamps, but does not treat, recycle, or dispose of them.

Universal Waste Transporter - One who engages in the process of transporting waste lamps for 10 days or less.  A transporter may not store, accumulate, dispose, dilute or treat universal waste lamps. No EPA ID is required. Proper marking and labeling of waste lamps is required. Transporter requirements are found at 40 CFR 273 Subpart D.