How Do You Dispose a Fluorescent Bulb?


Quick Answer

Because fluorescent bulbs contain a small amount of mercury, they should be recycled or disposed of in hazardous waste receptacles. Throwing them out with household trash runs the risk of introducing mercury into the environment; while each bulb only contains a very small amount of the toxic metal, those amounts can add up in landfills. Home Depot, Lowe's and other hardware stores sometimes maintain recycle bins for these bulbs.

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How Do You Dispose a Fluorescent Bulb?
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Full Answer

In addition to retail drop-off points, many waste management organizations have their own hazardous waste collection programs that include compact fluorescent light bulbs. In some cases, these hazardous items pickups only occur a few times each year, requiring consumers to store their bulbs until pickup time. Manufacturers also may have their own recycling programs, providing shipping materials for consumers to send back their spent light bulbs for safe processing.

When a fluorescent tube is energized, the current heats and vaporizes mercury inside the bulb. When this vapor is energized, the individual molecules become excited, releasing ultraviolet rays to discharge the excess energy. These photons strike a phosphorescent coating on the inside of the glass tube, producing visible light. When the bulb is turned off, the mercury cools and returns to its solid state.

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