Fluorescent tubes are classified as hazardous waste, falling under the section of industrial products. This means that they need to be recycled differently to normal waste, otherwise they could harm the environment, wildlife and even humans. Here, we’ll look at exactly what a fluorescent tube is, and how you can safely dispose of it.
A fluorescent tube is a low-pressure mercury-vapour gas-discharge lamp that uses fluorescence to produce visible light. They’re typically straight, circular or U-shaped, and are found inside fluorescent lamps.
There are a variety of fluorescent tubes you can choose between, with the T8 type considered most efficient, lasting up to 15,000 hours. This energy efficiency means that they’re commonly found in homes and offices across the UK.
Ultimately, fluorescent tubes can be harmful to the environment, wildlife and humans due to the fact they contain mercury, which is highly toxic.
If disposed of incorrectly, the mercury could dissipate into the atmosphere, contaminating wildlife and water and therefore increasing the risk of mercury poisoning in humans. In fact, the mercury found in just one fluorescent lamp can contaminate up to 30,000 litres of water; highlighting just how dangerous they can be.
Mercury is most commonly released in the air when it’s incinerated, which is what will happen if you dispose of your fluorescent tubes at regular landfills.
Like all hazardous waste, they must be stored, collected and treated according to strict guidelines, to stop it from causing damage.
When you have a fluorescent tube that needs recycling, you should either wrap it up in bubble wrap or newspaper, before taking it to a specialist waste disposal centre; or hire waste specialists like us, who can safely recycle the tubes for you.
We have specially made fluorescent tube coffins, which ensure the tubes are dealt with safely, and don’t pose a risk to the environment.
If you have a damaged or broken fluorescent tube, then the most important thing to do, is reduce the number of people exposed to it. Ask anyone who is in the room to leave, and turn off the air con or central heating to prevent the toxins from spreading further in the building.
Make sure you air the room out by opening a window; and transfer the fragments of the broken tube into a disposable container. Don’t touch the tube directly yourself, use cardboard or paper to manoeuvre it instead. Smaller shards can be collected with sticky tape. Avoid using the vacuum cleaner if possible, as there’s the potential for mercury powder to spread the next time you hoover.