How to Recycle Fluorescent Bulbs


The new energy saving fluorescent bulbs are definitely more environmentally friendly, but are you aware that they contain hazardous waste? Under the Resource Convention and Recovery Act (RCRA) and the Universal Waste Rule (UWR), they contain category C hazardous waste which needs to be disposed of in a responsible and specialized manner. The bulbs contain mercury, which means they should not be tossed into the trash. You should find out how to recycle or dispose of them in your area.

Can fluorescent bulbs be recycled?

Pretty much every part of a florescent bulb can be recycled. In doing so, the glass, metals and various other materials which make up the bulb can be reused in one way or another. Although florescent bulbs contain mercury, there is no danger of any toxicity when the bulb is in one piece. However, when a bulb breaks, it can release small amounts of mercury into the atmosphere.

If a CFL bulb is thrown into the trash, dumpster or ends up in landfill, then it will more than likely break. Because of this, some states now require you to recycle florescent bulbs by law.

Virtually all towns and cities have recycling and waste centers. If you are unsure of the closest to where you live visit and enter your zip code. Here you will also be able to find out if there are any curbside collections close to you that may be able to collect your florescent bulbs.

Many of the larger chain retailers also provide a collection point for CFL florescent bulbs. These include IKEA, Orchard Supply and Home Depot. However, it’s best to check directly with your local store to check before you make a special trip.

What are the possibilities for recycling fluorescent bulbs?

When florescent bulbs are recycled all the parts are separated. The metal components go for scrap metal, the glass can be turned into various other glass products and the mercury very often ends up in new florescent bulbs or other device which contain the substance.

But what about the resources used in the recycling process?

Because of the hazardous waste, the cost of recycling is a necessary evil. But the good thing is that virtually no part of a florescent bulb goes to waste, so the energy used in recycling is all put to use.

Thankfully, now that there are far more places to recycle it is not necessary to make a car journey to get rid of a single bulb! And the fact that the bulbs last for a long period of time means that less bulbs than the pre-florescent days are around to be recycled. You should also be very careful if a bulb gets smashed as this allows the mercury to escape. In this case you should ensure you wear gloves for the clean-up, place the debris in a sealed bag and dispose of at a recycling center.


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