Fluorescent Light

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Warning

Fluorescent lamps contain mercury, a toxic heavy metal which, if disposed of irresponsibly, can pollute waterways and damage the environment.

Even though the amount of mercury is relatively small, fluorescent lights must be disposed of as hazardous waste. Mercury can cause severe damage to the brain, nervous system, kidneys, lungs, and other vital organs.

Do not attempt to dismantle fluorescent lamps yourself.

Education

Fluorescent lamps can contain mercury, the disposal of which is tightly regulated in New Zealand. Mercury-containing lamps are considered a hazardous waste when the concentration of mercury exceeds 0.2mg/l. Most lamps (weighing between 200-300g) contain between 0.3 – 20mgs of mercury. Therefore, New Zealand regulation ensures that lamps sent to landfill are minimised.

Elements which are recycled from fluorescent lamps include the mercury, aluminium, glass and phospor powder. In order to recycle the tubes they are first crushed, the elements are separated, and the mercury is recovered. All products are then distilled and recycled into marketable by-products which include:

  • Mercury is distilled from separated powders and then re-used in the manufacture of dental amalgam. 
  • Aluminium from tube ends is recycled into cast products such as ingot used for foundry application. 
  • Glass from lamps are separated and recycled into the glass wool used to insulate homes.
  • Phosphor powder from the tubes is used for the manufacture of fertiliser products and sold to agriculture industries.

Reduce

How to reduce the need for fluorescent lighting:

  • Take advantage of natural lighting where possible by opening curtains and blinds
  • If you are refurbishing or designing a new home/building ask your architect or builder about optimal placement for windows or skylights to take advantage of natural light
  • Consider installing timers or motion-sensors. Your light bulbs will last longer if used only when needed
  • Consider where outdoor solar lights could replace current lights
  • Change to mercury free CFL (Compact Fluorescent Light) bulbs
  • Change to LED lights

Recycle

Fluorescent tubes are collected at the Whanganui Resource Recovery Centre for recycling. Please ask a staff member on the forecourt where to place your tubes.

[If you know of a source of UN-rated 200L drums with lids, please get in touch with us via the "Have A Question, Tip, Something to Add" link, as these are needed to transport crushed light bulbs/tubes safely.]

Disposal

Please keep from landfill wherever possible.