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How to Dispose of Fluorescent Tubes Safely: What You Need to Know!

old fluorescent tubes

fluorescent tubes

Fluorescent tubes are used as a more energy-efficient and less costly alternative to traditional, incandescent light bulbs. They will last for up to 20,000 hours of light and are commonplace in homes and businesses because of the benefits that they offer over alternative bulbs. However, they do contain mercury, and this means that when a fluorescent tube breaks, it needs to be disposed of carefully.

Recycling them at a local recycling center is one option. Some stores also offer to take and recycle the bulbs, and some businesses offer a postal recycling service. These help ensure that mercury and other hazardous materials are disposed of safely without being released into the environment.

Recycling also ensures that certain materials in the bulb are reused, therefore minimizing the bulbs’ impact on the wider environment, and some states may legally require that you recycle products like fluorescent bulbs.

light bulb divider

Store Them Safely

Once the bulb has gone, it may be some time before you have the opportunity to properly recycle a fluorescent tube. Some local agencies, for example, only arrange for collection every few months, which means that you will have to find a more convenient alternative, or you need to store them properly until they are collected. Ideally, store them in their original box, or in the box of the replacement bulb. Bulb recycling companies may provide you with a special container, and this should offer some protection. You will usually be unable to recycle a bulb if it is broken. Keep the bulbs somewhere they won’t break and that they can reside until the recycler collects.

fluorescent lamps

Know the Local Law

Some states have made it illegal to send fluorescent bulbs to landfills. Such states include California, Massachusetts, Vermont, and Washington, but there are others. Speak to your local waste collection agency to determine the laws surrounding bulb disposal in your area. This is especially important if you dispose of a lot of bulbs. Although some states require that you recycle these products, others may demand hazardous waste collection.

See Also:

Contact Your Waste Collection Agency has a list of local waste collection agencies, as well as a list of local recycling centers.

Centers enable you to take your own bulbs and dispose of them on the day, but if it is not convenient to get to one of these locations, you can also speak to the waste collection agency. They should be able to arrange a time when they will come and collect the bulbs and take them away.

Use Local and National Retailers

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Some stores, especially those that sell replacement fluorescent bulbs, offer a recycling service. Stores like Home Depot, Ikea, and Lowe’s are known to offer in-store recycling for this kind of product. Ring the store before visiting and discuss how the process works. They may have special containers or they may simply offer a bin or bucket that you can dispose of the bulbs into. If you regularly visit these stores, this can be a very convenient way to dispose of a small number of bulbs at once.

Some local stores may offer a similar service. Whether you use a local or national store, and whether the brand is well recognized or not, you should ensure that they dispose of the bulbs properly. Fluorescent bulbs should not end up in landfills, with general waste, and some companies may simply throw them in the waste to try and get new customers through the door. Speak to the owner, determine their requirements, and ask how they dispose of the bulbs.

Use a Mail-Back Service

Mail-Back services charge a small fee and they send a pre-packaged container to you. Pop the bulb inside the container and return it to them. Some companies take a single bulb or a small number, while other companies will provide a larger container. You keep putting burned-out bulbs in the container and only return it once it has filled up.

This kind of service is useful if you have a lot of bulbs or if you club together with other households, but it can take a long time to fill the box if you live in a small apartment, rarely use bulbs, and don’t really have adequate space in which to house the recycling container and the used bulbs.

light bulb divider

Safely Dispose of Fluorescent Tubes

Fluorescent tubes contain mercury, and they are made from various materials that can and should be recycled. Bulbs only contain a small amount of mercury, and they are safe for use as long as the bulb does not smash or break.

When the bulb does break, it releases mercury vapor into the environment. However, when the fluorescent bulbs go to a landfill, the mercury from a smashed bulb can get into groundwater and eventually make it into our drinking water. Safe disposal, or recycling, of the bulbs, helps to avoid contamination. Use local or national stores, local recycling companies, or mail-back services to ensure you properly dispose of your used fluorescent bulbs.

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Featured Image Credit: Panuwat Phothikamol, Shutterstock


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