Most components of a fluorescent bulb can be recycled—the metal end caps can be sold as scrap; the glass tubing is remanufactured into new glass products; and the mercury and phosphor are recovered and reused for new light bulbs.
Many bulb-manufacturers offer take-back programs, in which burnt-out lamps can be mailed in for recycling free of charge. Visit the manufacturers’ web site for more information. Association member, Waste Management, offers a national bulb recycling program by mail. In addition, several retailers including Home Depot, IKEA and True Value also accept bulbs for recycling year-round, while others, such as Wal-Mart, hold special take-back days. Be sure to carefully handle and package the bulbs to ensure they do not break in transit. (Tip: An easy way to pack them is to box them up in the packaging from your new light bulbs.)
Once the light bulbs are collected, they are sent to recycling facilities across the country for processing. The light bulbs are mechanically crushed and sorted into their separate components. A vacuum system is used to ensure that toxic substances are not released into the air when the bulbs are crushed.