Fluorescent Tube Recycling Guide UK
In this guide you will find:
- Where to take tubes to be recycled
- How to hire a company to recycle fluorescent tubes for you
- Interactive recycling maps
- Health and safety advice
- WEEE directive
- Recycling CFLs
Fluorescent tubes are classed as hazardous waste due to the mercury contained in the phosphor powder within the tube. This means they have to be disposed of properly at specific recycling sites and not every landfill site will be equipped to handle the chemicals present in the tubes.
Where to take tubes to be recycled
The best way to recycle your old tubes is to take them to a specialist waste disposal centre. Most (but not all) local tips or recycling centres will handle the bulbs for you. If you have a large number of fluorescent tubes to dispose of or are disposing of them on behalf of a business then restrictions will apply as most government run recycling sites won’t take commercial waste. The companies listed in the section on Commercial Waste will give you more information on where you can take your tubes to be recycled.
The recycling centres listed below accept fluorescent tubes but may have restrictions on vehicle size when dropping them off so call ahead for any restrictions. Don’t forget to take some ID with your current address on it when you drop your tubes off - some centres only allow local residents to use the recycling services.
Most recycling centres do not open Christmas Day, Boxing Day or New Year’s Day, so again, call in advance to confirm opening times.
How to hire a company to recycle fluorescent tubes for you
Most government run recycling centres will dispose of fluorescent tubes, however, some won’t accept commercial waste, so if you have a large number of tubes to get rid of then ring the centre in advance to check if they will accept them.
If you can’t recycle your fluorescent tubes at a government run centre then there are specialist companies that will accept fluorescent tubes or even collect them from your premises or designated collection points. When choosing a waste disposal company, ensure they are a registered hazardous waste contractor and have the relevant compliance and accreditations in place.
Some points to consider when hiring a recycling company are:
- Some companies may have specific rules for collecting tubes, such as requiring them to be packaged in specialist boxes.
- Don’t tape tubes together as this can cause problems when they need to be separated for crushing.
- Package multiple lamps in strong, secure boxes and fill the boxes completely to avoid the tubes moving around. You could store the lamps in the packaging they were delivered in as well.
- When storing lamps ready for recycling ensure they are clearly marked as used to avoid confusion.
Interactive recycling maps
If you live or work in London, Birmingham, Manchester or Leeds and want to know where you can recycle your tubes safely, select a location below for recycling sites and companies in that area: (links to maps)
Health and safety advice
Mercury is a poisonous substance that can cause breathlessness, problems with muscle control, chest pains and coughing. Although the small amount of mercy in a fluorescent tube is unlikely to cause any health problems, if large amounts of it are inhaled, or if children or animals inhale the substance, it can be very dangerous. If you accidentally break a fluorescent tube then you will need to dispose of the debris very carefully. You can read more about how to clean up a broken fluorescent tube safely here.
Mercury is also hazardous to the environment which is why proper disposal is so important.
WEEE stands for Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment, and materials classed as this must be disposed of correctly so that they can be recycled. Lighting equipment, including fluorescent tubes and CFLs, are included under these guidelines. Products with this symbol on them come under the WEEE directive.
The same rules apply for recycling CFLs as fluorescent tubes as they also contain mercury. Some high street retailers have CFL recycling facilities for customers. These include:
- Sainsbury’s – 200 of their larger stores have CFL recycling facilities. You can find out which ones by clicking here.
- Ikea – most stores recycle CFLs, click here for more information.
Need to replace your fluorescent tube?
If you're looking to replacement for your fluorescent tubes, consider switching from traditional T8 fluorescents to T8 LEDs. LED tubes are mercury free and the average T8 LED tube lasts around 50,000 hours!
Need more information?
For statistics on fluorescent tube waste and recycling check out the Wikipedia page
To find out more about WEEE and the advantages of this recycling system visit www.hse.gov.uk/waste/waste-electrical.htm
Fast Recycling Facts!
- HID lamps also contain mercury and need to be disposed of professionally. These lights are often used in car parks and for industrial lighting and floodlights.
- Nearly every part of the tube can be recycled – the metal prongs can be sold as scrap metal, the tube itself can be recycled into glass products and even the mercury and phosphor can be used in new bulbs.
- Replacing an old tube needs to be done carefully to avoid breaking the tube, which can be hazardous. For full details of how to change a tube the correct way read our article Replacing and Recycling Fluorescent Tubes Safely.
- The mercury content in fluorescent tubes can vary from 3-12 milligrams in mercury-reduced lamps to 10-50 milligrams in non-mercury reduced lamps. .
- 80 million fluorescent tubes are disposed of every year in the UK which weighs 3,000 tonnes and includes 4 tonnes of mercury.
- Just one fluorescent tube contains enough mercury to pollute 50,000 pints of water.
- Other items which contain mercury and are also classed as hazardous waste include some medical equipment, mobile phones, batteries and circuit boards.
- During the recycling process, tubes are crushed to separate the glass from the interal prosperous powder. Some of the mercury stays in the powder and some of it is filtered out so it can be reused.
- Glass from fluorescent tubes can be recycled into filler for concrete.