Recycling Fluorescents

My company has like 40 used t8 fluorescent bulbs and I’m not letting us throw them away.

Some stores used to accept them for recycling - Lowes, Walmart, Sam’s Club, etc. Ikea does, but the closest one is about 40 miles away.

Local recycling places actually charge for recycling fluorescents.

If they’re so toxic, and so beneficial, you’d think the government would give provisions for recycling them so they don’t end up in the landfill. Our facilities guys are close to tossing them out if I don’t find a way to get them recycled for free.

How are your companies doing this? Or are they?

My warehouse guy just got back to me, it’s more like 150 fluorescent bulbs, not 40, that we need to recycle (so that we don’t throw them away).

It is illegal to throw fluorescent bulbs in regular trash in many districts (they are considered hazardous because of the mercury). You should check with your local landfill/waste hauler. If it is, that could give you an argument for why your facilities people should just buck up and pay to recycle them.

Even if it’s not prohibited, the responsible thing is to consider the recycling cost part of the total cost of these bulbs.

Where are you located?

I was in Home Depot this weekend and they have a big bin for them as well so that’s another option. Check with your local county waste disposal center, they’ll probably have a list of recyclers handy.

I came in here to mention Home Depot too. I recently had my first two CFL’s die (well short of their promised lifespan) and they are sitting on a counter in the kitchen waiting for my next trip to the big Orange Box o’ Lumber.

Thanks for the replies.

I should have been more specific. A t8 bulb is one of those long tubes that goes into overhead fixtures. It’s just a Fluorescent Bulb, not a CFL or Compact Fluorescent bulb, the kind that you buy for lamps, home fixtures, and ceiling fans.

Home Despot takes CFLs, but they do not take T8 bulbs.

Our company is in Simi Valley, CA. I’ve done tons of Web searches on this and have called many companies.

The local landfill has lots of info online about how bad it is for the environment, our kids, etc. They consider it hazardous waste.

They do offer a recycling program where they take hazardous waste, but it’s not exactly easy to utilize. You have to call and make an appointment, and they only have 11 appointments a year. The appointments are on the third Saturday of every month except December. The appointment for February is already full. We have to wait until 2/23 and make an appointment for 3/21. We aren’t even sure they can accept these bulbs.

They offer a system where we can PURCHASE boxes which will hold up to 16 of these bulbs (for about $60!), and then we can PAY to ship the boxes in. But we can’t just drop bulbs off or have them picked up.

As far as considering the cost to recycle a part of the cost of the bulb, I can’t talk our company into doing that. They money has already been spent on the bulb. If we need to pay out to a company to take them, we’ll have to put through a purchase requisition. When that gets submitted to the bean counters to approve, they’re going to ask if there’s a lower cost or free option. Someone in the works (not me) might suggest, “Why don’t we just throw these away?”

There’s got to be an easier way.

If the country is moving towards CFLs and Fluorescents, why isn’t the government helping people to recycle them more easily?

They do have a list, but when I click on the links and call the companies, they have all told me that they no longer take fluorescent bulbs.

The landfill does have a program to accept hazmat (which is what they consider fluorescent bulbs) but it’s hideously difficult to participate in, and we don’t even know if this particular program accepts fluorescents.

Wow, I didn’t realize that recycling the long T8 bulbs was such a pain.

However, $60 for 16 is ridiculous. A lot of places sell pre-paid recycling kits, so one fee gets you the packaging and return shipping, the whole thing. Here’s one that’s $79 for a package holding 70 4-foot T8 bulbs:

Looks pretty straightforward - you don’t even have somebody’s time to drop them off anywhere, just put them in the box and call for pickup.

Yeah it sucks that it’s not as simple as dropping a CFL off at the local store but those bulbs are 4 foot fragile glass tubes with toxic material in them, it’s not going to be totally painless. Still, about $1/tube seems pretty reasonable to me given the power savings and long life of the bulbs (I have 8 of them in my workshop and haven’t had to replace one in ~7 years, likewise for the numerous CFLs all around my house).

California law prohibits disposal of fluorescent bulbs in regular waste, so even though it is the “free” option, it isn’t legal. The California DTSC site has info on recyclers. You probably already looked at this, so I doubt this will help you find another option. But it might help convince your company that the free option is illegal, so it isn’t really free. Show them some of the fines imposed on businesses who illegally dump hazardous waste, and the recyling cost could seem pretty reasonable.

And not to discourage you more, but I’ll bet the free haz waste drop-off times are for residential waste only, not businesses. So I don’t think that is an option either.

You have my sympathy trying to deal with this the right way. You are absolutely right that it should be an easier process.

This particular problem is solved. A supervisor in my old department is going to Ikea this week, and he owns a SUV. He’ll take our bulbs in. I called Ikea to confirm, and they’re happy to take bulbs.

But this begs a much larger question - when is the government (who is mandating fluorescent) going to get behind a recycling program for them?

Check with your local hardware stores. Around here, I can drop off up to ten tubes for free. If you give them a lot of business, they might be willing to take in several cartons’ worth as a one-time favor.

SeanArenas, the company I work for is a waste and recyclables broker, Ill pm you …

Yes it is illegal and it can get very expensive, more expensive then paying for the recycle boxes.

You can order recycle boxes from Graingers or a lighting suppy company, like westlight or Regancy lighting. You just fill the box with used tubes seal the box put the FedEx or UPS lable on it call for pick up.