Energy efficient light bulbs containing mercury should always be recycled or disposed of properly if they happen to be broken. With that being said, there are two main kinds of light bulbs available: compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) and fluorescent tubes. While CFLs have many recycling options, via mail-in programs and retail drop-offs, fluorescent tubes are much harder to dispose of once their 15,000 hours of lighting are over.
Fluorescent bulbs are highly toxic when broken, and they cannot simply be placed inside of your trash. They contain glass and aluminum and inside them is mercury, a highly toxic substance. Which is why you can’t dispose of them by yourself; in fact, in most areas, it is illegal to do so. They can easily shatter and release their toxic contents.
Also, mercury, when it escapes, tends to build up in the atmosphere, and later fall as rain and snow after it mixes with precipitation. This is why you have to dispose of all your fluorescent bulbs the right way; to reduce the risk of mercury emissions polluting the environment.
Proper Fluorescent Disposal
The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Universal Waste Rule claims that all mercury-containing bulbs can be handled as non-hazardous waste provided they’re disposed of safely by recycling. So, there are three ways by which you can easily recycle your fluorescent bulbs; either you use ‘Earth911.org’ locate any CFL bulbs drop off site close to you, by taking them to your local household hazardous waste (HHW) drop off site or by working with a local waste disposal company.
What if You Have Broken Fluorescent Bulbs?
Broken fluorescent bulbs pose a threat to your health and environment as a whole. In situations like this, the EPA recommends that:
- You vacate everyone from the room
- Maximize air circulation for 10 to 15 minutes by opening all windows
- Turn off the HVAC system
- Get rid of all the rubble: glass, metal filaments, and powder with a stiff piece of cardboard
- Vacuum up the remaining powder or dust
- Pack all the cleanup materials, (with the vacuum cleaner bag included), in a trash bag or sealable container, and place outside for disposal
- Contact your local recycling company or visit a to a local waste drop-off location
Disposing of your used fluorescent bulbs correctly, shouldn’t be a problem. Simply follow the above guidelines stated by the EPA for safe disposal to prevent mercury pollution.
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