The Dark Side of Fluorescent Lights

We all have summer projects. Mine is to change out the old fluorescent bulbs and tubes in my laundry room and kitchen and retrofit the lighting fixtures to LED. 

This conversion to LED means I’m done with the 48-inch tubes and possibly the ballast as well.  So, what am I supposed to do with those items? 

First of all, never throw them in the trash. (Confession here: Several years ago, following another light fixture project, I did throw the bulbs and ballast into the trash can. I didn’t know any better. I was young and naïve, which is my lame excuse for any stupid thing I did in the past.)  

Many of the larger hardware stores don’t accept the 48-inch lights for recycling, but they will take compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) bulbs. Those bulbs can be hazardous if they aren’t disposed of correctly. If broken, the bulbs can release mercury. 

Basically, you need to find out how your local jurisdiction handles the materials. Do an online search and figure out if you need to drop the tubes off at a local collection site or if your area has a household hazardous waste pickup service.

As for the ballast, some older products are considered potentially hazardous since they could contain polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB). Those ballasts should be disposed at a hazardous waste facility.  Check with your local jurisdiction to find out where to take these items in your area. Recent electrical ballasts can be recycled at some light bulb specialty stores, or you can send them back via a mail-in program. Besides your county, is another good resource to find out where you can properly dispose of the ballasts. 

So, if you’re planning to change out those pesky fluorescent bulbs, these simple tips will have you more prepared. Good luck with your project!

Fluorescent light tube
— Syd Fong
Posted on Jul 18, 2019

Summary: Converting from CFLs to LED lights means I’m done with the 48-inch tubes and possibly the ballast as well. So, what are we supposed to do with those items? First of all, never throw them in the trash.