Fluorescent tubing produces an ultraviolet light through using gas and mercury vapour, causing the phosphor interior lamp coating to glow. Their popularity stems from their efficiency and longevity. In fact, they can last up to 15,000 hours! However, they are more expensive than incandescent lamps, but this cost is offset by their low energy consumption.
Fluorescent lamps are classified as hazardous waste, as they contain mercury–a highly toxic metal. As such, they need to be disposed of correctly. These tubes must never be placed in regular waste bins, nor in curbside recycling bins, as they can be harmful to people, animals, and the environment and so, they must never end up in landfills. However, they are safe to use in both homes and businesses. The only concerns consumers should have with fluorescent tubes is their disposal. Therefore, it’s crucial to locate a recycling service specialising in household hazardous waste where such tubes can be recycled. Some companies offer a convenient pickup service, although consumers can also drop them off at hardware stores that offer this service.
How to Prepare for Recycling a Fluorescent Tube
First, turn off the fuse which provides power to the particular area of the home. Remove the light cover and the tube with great care to avoid breakage. Broken fluorescent tubes are not recyclable, so in the case that it does break, limit exposure to the toxins emanating in the air, which could cause mercury poisoning. Have everyone, including pets, leave the room. Mercury toxins are especially dangerous to babies and pregnant women. Immediately turn off any central heating or cooling system to avoid contamination of other rooms in the home. Air out the room by opening doors and windows. Do NOT vacuum the broken glass! Otherwise, the poisonous mercury powders can spread throughout your home the next time you turn on your vacuum. Instead, wear protective rubber gloves and sweep up debris and place it in an airtight container. To lift up small fragments, use tape and put it in the same container, and dispose of it safely in your rubbish bin.
Once safely removed and intact, put the tube in a protective wrapping, such as bubble wrap or several layers of newspaper to ensure it doesn’t break while transporting it to your local household hazardous waste facility. To be extra safe, place the tube in a long box, further reducing the risk of breakage. Use this guide to disposing of fluorescent tubing to protect humans, pets, wildlife, and the environment.