Which lightbulbs contain mercury?
Confusion surrounds what type of lightbulbs can be put in a skip or your household waste, which need to be recycles and which styles can be recycled.
Much of this uncertainty stems from reports that some energy-saving lightbulbs contain mercury and pose a risk to health if broken.
Here, ProSkips provides a guide about how to dispose of different types of lightbulbs.
These old-style standard lightbulbs once dominated the domestic market and are still common in UK homes. Incandescent bulbs aren’t recyclable and should be thrown away in a rubbish bin. Please don’t try to recycle your old-style light bulbs with your glass bottles because they are made from a different type of glass and also contain metal parts.
These energy-saving sources of light do not belong in the rubbish bin, or a skip because they contain small amounts of mercury. Although this is completely safe for users, they must be collected separately for disposal. Furthermore, it ensures that valuable parts of the lamps, such as glass and metal, are not lost.
Businesses that use fluorescent tubes need to contact their local authority for advice on how to dispose of them safely. Under the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Regulations, fluorescent lamps are covered by “producer responsibility” and you should ask your supplier to arrange their recycling.
Commonly used in kitchen lights, halogens cannot be recycled because the fine wires used in the manufacture of the bulbs are very difficult to separate from the glass. Therefore, halogen bulbs can be put in a skip or placed in your household waste.
Compact fluorescent lights (CFLs)
These old-style energy saving bulbs are the source of the bulk of the confusion that surrounds the disposal of lightbulbs.
Like fluorescent tubes, CFLs contain mercury which when exposed to the air evaporates quickly to form mercury vapour.
However, research carried out at Jackson State University in Mississippi reveals that if broken a 13-watt CFL releases between 0.04mg and 0.7mg of mercury within the first 24 hours.
A much larger amount of mercury – 4mg – is only enough to cover the tip of a ballpoint pen, and is too small to cause immediate health concerns.
The mercury released from a broken bulb will, in the vast majority of cases, be cleaned up and disposed of before it has time to evaporate and form vapour.
The advice from the researchers was that any exposure would be extremely small as long as the bits of broken bulb were cleaned away quickly and the room ventilated as an extra precaution.
Although mercury in sufficient quantities can be dangerous, the amount in a CFL bulb is too small to pose any serious risk to human health.
Unlike incandescent bulbs, intact CFLs can be recycled.
These modern-style bulbs are made without a filament. They consume very little power and have a much longer life than incandescent or CFL bulbs and don't use any dangerous chemicals so they can be disposed of in the same way as incandescent or halogen bulbs.
However, most LED lights are made with materials that are all recyclable. Check the package that your bulb came in to confirm, but odds are you can just toss your LED bulb in the recycling once it's used up.
ProSkips is committed to increasing the amount of waste that is recycled. As an independent broker, we have developed a national network of local skip hire partners who provide a great service at the right price and who recycle their waste.
At ProSkips we fully understand and value each individual client’s needs and are committed to providing the best possible local skip hire service. For more information about hiring a skip for the best possible price, contact ProSkips today.
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