RECYCLING FLUORESCENT BULBS

The use of fluorescent light bulb tubes and compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) has been increasingly encouraged over the past years because of its energy efficiency.  While fluorescent tubes are commonly used in commercial businesses, CFLs offer the same type of efficiency to private homes.

Fluorescent bulbs last up to 10 times longer than incandescent bulbs, decreasing waste, expense, and pollution caused by production.  Despite the benefits of fluorescent bulbs, consumers still need to practice responsible use and recycling of this material.  Fluorescent bulbs contain small amounts of mercury that, if compounded, is damaging to the environment.

Recycling fluorescent bulbs prevent mercury from being released openly. Recyclers use mercury and the other materials used for other purposes 

COMMERCIAL RECYCLING

Commercial businesses using large quantities of fluorescent bulbs can start a regular recycling program for their facility. Consider these options to assist the management of recycling.

Purchase a Commercial Bulb Crusher. These machines are designed to crush the bulbs and prevent hazardous air emissions. They can handle straight, U-shaped, CFL's and HID's.

Inquire about any existing recycling service from your lamp distributors.  Some distributors may offer a pick-up or exchange program.

Organize a management flow for the recycling process, including a designated area to store and process used bulbs / lamps.  Many manufacturers sell specific containers made for storing fluorescent tubes.

Consider the pick-up or transporting options for your facility.  Large quantity users may use a regularly scheduled pick-up service.  For smaller quantities, manufacturers use mail programs to receive used fluorescent tubes. If you are close to a recycler or processor, self-transport is the most cost-efficient for smaller quantities of waste lamps. 

FLUORESCENT BULB RECYCLING PROCESS

Carefully remove the bulb to prevent breakage.  Do not twist the glass; remove by holding the base of the bulb.

If possible, place the bulb or tubes in its original packaging for transport.

After collected in mass, the bulbs are sealed in a large drum for transport to a processing facility.

Just as with the bulb crusher machines indicated above that can be used onsite in most states, the large processors use special equipment to crush the bulbs, which also traps potentially hazardous powders and vapors.

The crushed materials, which include glass, aluminum, and mercury, are separated and sent to another facility where they will be prepared for reuse.

HANDLING FLUORESCENT BULBS OR CFLs

Fluorescent bulbs and CFL (compact fluorescent light bulbs) should be handled carefully to prevent breakage.  Breaking these bulbs releases mercury vapor into the air, which could affect human health.

If a fluorescent bulb breaks, follow these guidelines to ensure safe cleanup.

Open windows and shut off the central air conditioning unit to prevent the spread of mercury vapors.  Allow the room to air out for five to ten minutes.

Sweep the broken debris with paper onto stiff cardboard, and then place the debris and cardboard in a sealed glass jar.

Use adhesive tape to clean up smaller bits of debris and glass.

Vacuum only when smaller fragments are left after sweeping. Remove and seal vacuum bags in a plastic bag or empty and wipe vacuum canisters.

Place glass jar or plastic bags containing the bulb debris outside of the home until it can be taken and disposed.

Verify any local regulations regarding fluorescent bulb disposal.  Some local agencies require recycling of these bulbs.

 

Copyright © WasteCare Corporation.  All Rights Reserved.  Article can be reproduced only with written permission from WasteCare Corporation.  An identifying link to WasteCare Corporation must be placed visibly before and after the printed article and all hyperlinks within article must remain. To obtain permission to reprint this article, please email us at info@wastecare.com . (Reference Article AI2-1124-104) . This page and the remaining website is monitored for copyright infringement by automated scans that include all websites worldwide.