How to Dispose of Fluorescent Tubes Safely

Jodee Redmond
Fluorescent tubes

If you are going to use energy-efficient light bulbs, you need to become familiar with how to dispose of fluorescent tubes safely in your municipality.

Why Recycle Fluorescent Bulbs

Compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) and fluorescent bulbs contain mercury. The addition of this substance means that the bulb can be an energy-efficient light source. If the bulbs are not disposed of properly, the mercury can be released into the environment.

The amount of mercury the bulbs contain is not a large amount; they only contain about 4 mg of mercury. As long as the bulbs are unbroken, no mercury is released into the environment and they are safe to use. If the CFLs or bulbs are broken, they can release mercury vapor.

These products should be recycled, as opposed to being thrown out with household waste. Keeping them out of landfills and incinerators is the more environmentally-friendly choice.

Fluorescent bulbs contain materials that can be recycled, including the glass and metals. Most of the components that make up the bulb can be used for other purposes.

How to Dispose of Fluorescent Tubes Safely

The first step in disposing of fluorescent tubes is to find out how hazardous waste is handled in your community. Visit Earth911.com to find out where your local collection agency is located. Some of municipalities offer curbside collection for fluorescent bulbs, while others accept them at drop-off locations.

Find out whether CFLs and fluorescent bulbs are accepted year-round, or if they are picked up on specific days only. Hazardous waste collection depots may also accept other items, such as batteries, cleaning supplies and paints.

When you contact your local collection agency, ask about cost. In some cases, the agencies will collect fluorescent tubes at no charge. In other areas, a small fee is charged.

Local Retailers

Some retailers will accept fluorescent bulbs in their stores for recycling purposes. The following chains may offer in-store recycling programs:

  • Ace Hardware
  • Home Depot
  • IKEA
  • Lowe's
  • Orchard Supply

Contact your local store to confirm that it is participating in the program before bringing your bulbs in. Not all locations will offer this service.

Manufacturers' Mail-Back Services

Some companies offer recycling kits to customers. For a fee, you would receive a pre-labeled package that you would use to mail your used bulbs back to the manufacturer. As the bulbs burn out, you would add them to the package. Once it is full, you would seal it and take to the post office for mailing.

The Easypak web site offers recycling boxes for several sizes of lamps, as well as batteries and electronics. The fee you pay includes the cost of a plastic container (with lid), the cost of shipping the bulbs to a recycling facility (with a pre-paid FedEx shipping label) and applicable charges.

You can get a fluorescent recycling kit from Think Green from Home. It includes box with a re-sealable bag for CFLs. Simply place the bulbs in the bag once they have burned out and when the box is full, attach the pre-paid return shipping label onto it. Mail the box to the recycling facility and you will receive a Certificate of Recycling to confirm that the bulbs were disposed of safely.

The issue of how to dispose of fluorescent tubes safely is one that is easily dealt with. Your local municipality is a good source of information. Local retailers may have recycling programs for the bulbs. If neither one is available to you, then you can go to one of the sites listed above to have a recycling kit forwarded to you.

How to Dispose of Fluorescent Tubes Safely