How to Dispose of Fluorescent Tubes Safely

Fluorescent tubes serve as an energy-efficient alternative to incandescent light bulbs, but they contain low levels of toxic mercury which can be released into the air or water if the tubes are broken. That can lead to short-term health risk for exposed individuals and lasting environmental damage to soil and water. To minimize that risk, government agencies have established easy to follow guidelines for the safe recycling or disposal of fluorescent bulbs and tubes.

Business people holding glowing light in conference room
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Long-lasting fluorescent tubes must be handled carefully during installation and disposal.

Step 1

Contact your municipal or county government center for information about fluorescent tube recycling programs in your area. Recycling pickup of toxic materials may occur only a few times a year in your community, so you may need to store your used fluorescent tubes temporarily.

Step 2

Store used fluorescent tubes in a closed container, such as the tubes' original cardboard packaging or a large plastic trash bag. Many local recycling or environmental regulatory agencies recommend sealing the storage container or bag prior to pickup.

Step 3

Place the sealed container of old fluorescent tubes in your trash receptacle for regular pickup if no other options exist. Do this only if your local waste agency does not incinerate its garbage.