Light Bulb Recycling

We go through a lot of light bulbs every year and most of us do not realize that we are legally obligated to recycle fluorescent light bulbs in several states, including Washington. Light bulbs come in many shapes and sizes, but no matter the kind, it is always better to recycle them instead of throwing them in the trash. Let Owen’s List be your source to understand where different types of bulbs should go as well as why it’s important to not throw them in the trash.

Why light bulbs shouldn’t go in the landfill

Did you know that fluorescent tubes and Compact Fluorescent Lights (or CFL) are banned from the garbage because they contain mercury?

Although each light bulb contains only a small amount of mercury, when it accumulates in the landfill, it causes a significant problem to the environment and can affect human health. Exposure to mercury does not only cause developmental problems in unborn children but also muscle weakness, speech and vision impairment, and lack of coordination in adults. These issues are specific to fluorescent tubes, bulbs, and CFLs but when it comes to light-emitting diode bulbs (LEDs), these bulbs contain hazardous substances too. LEDs contain lead and arsenic but they are not reused or recycled the same way as CFLs, which is why even though they are more energy efficient and have some environmental benefits, you should find a proper recycling facility for them.

Additionally, why throw what can be reused? Other materials that makeup fluorescent such as glass and metal can be recycled. Overall, not only are you repurposing valuable resources but also reducing the risk of exposure to mercury, which is why fluorescent bulbs, tubes, and CFLs should be kept away from landfills.

What happens when light bulbs get recycled

When fluorescent tubes or CFLs are recycled, they are safely broken down into their separate components, which include glass, metal, phosphorus, and mercury for the purpose to be reused in other products. Usually, they are sent to a recycling facility, where this is done automatically. This is also where glass and aluminum are sorted and stored to be reused and where mercury is isolated. The mercury powder is collected and extracted so that the rest of the elements of the bulb are ready for use. At the end of the breakdown, the glass, metal end-caps, powder, and even the mercury can be reused.

How else can you help reduce light bulb waste

Consider replacing burnt out light bulbs with even longer lasting LED bulbs. LED bulbs last longer and than CFL’s and don’t contain mercury.

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