While compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs) have extensive recycling options through retail drop-offs and mail-in programs, the same can’t be said for fluorescent tubes. Luckily, these tubes will last up to 15,000 hours, so you won’t need to worry about recycling them often.
Fluorescent Tube Recycling Preparation
- When uninstalling a burnt-out tube, make sure to turn off the fuse box providing power to that section of the house. Use a ladder to ensure the bulb doesn’t fall to the ground. You’ll then need to remove the light cover and unscrew the tube.
- If the tube breaks, here’s what to do. There’s no recycling market for broken fluorescent lamps.
- Pack your tube in newspaper or bubble wrap when transporting to a recycling center or household hazardous waste event. You don’t want it to break in your car.
Why Recycle Fluorescent Tubes
- Each fluorescent tube contains mercury, a hazardous material that is also quite valuable, as well as aluminum and glass
- Seven states have banned lamps containing mercury from landfills
Find a place near you to recycle your fluorescent tube with our Recycling Locator.
Frequent Fluorescent Tubes Recycling Questions
Can I recycle fluorescent tubes in my curbside recycling program?
Fluorescent lamps are considered household hazardous waste (HHW), so they don’t belong in the recycling bin (even if your curbside program accepts glass and metal, the main materials inside the tube). Many communities put on HHW events several times per year if they don’t operate a permanent collection facility.
Are there alternatives to fluorescent tubes?
Yes. You can now purchase LED tubes that are fully compatible for a fluorescent tube fixture. You may need to pay more, but LED tubes contain no mercury, are dimmable, save 30 percent more energy and last 50,000 hours on average.
How are fluorescent tubes recycled?
Fluorescent tubes are shipped to a bulb recycler that uses special machines to extract the mercury and breaks down the aluminum caps and glass casing. Mercury can be reused in new bulbs or products like thermostats. Aluminum is recycled as scrap metal, and the glass is downcycled into materials like concrete or ceramic tile.
Why is it easier to find recycling options for CFLs than fluorescent tubes?
The biggest market for CFL recycling is retailers (like Home Depot and Lowe’s), which accept them for free but only from consumers. CFLs are more widely purchased by consumers in these retail stores, whereas fluorescent tubes are more often used in offices. It’s also easier to ship CFLs for recycling than the tubes. Please don’t try to recycle your fluorescent tubes through these retail collection bins, as the bulbs will likely break and contaminate the store.
- I Broke a CFL. Now What?: A step-by-step plan for what to do if you break a fluorescent light
- Light Bulb Moment? Researchers See Bright Idea: An overview of the innovations in light bulbs over the years
- Top 16 Most-Searched Materials for Recycling: Fluorescent tubes are always one of the top-searched materials in the Earth911 recycling directory; see what else made the list