Two-thirds of lightbulbs not recycled, creating potential health hazards

Two-thirds of lightbulbs not recycled, creating potential health hazards

Tadg O’Reilly, 11, and Rian O’Reilly, 9, highlighting the need for people to safely dispose of lightbulbs Picture: Conor McCabe/PA

Millions of lightbulbs are being dumped in general waste bins in Ireland every year, potentially creating hidden health hazards.

Only 3.2 million of the estimate 10 million lightbulbs sold in 2019 were recycled, according to Waste, Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Ireland.

That leaves up to 6.8 million bulbs which could have been sent to landfill via household rubbish bins.

This creates a health and environmental hazard as many bulbs are fluorescent and compact fluorescent lamps (CFL), which can contain traces of mercury and other harmful chemicals.

Leo Donovan, chief executive of WEEE Ireland said: “When you dispose of fluorescent and CFL bulbs in your regular rubbish, the risk of bulb breakage is high.

“If broken, these bulbs can release harmful mercury vapour and metal dust into the air that can be hazardous to health and the environment.”

Tadg O’Reilly, 10, highlighting the need for people to safely dispose of lightbulbs (Conor McCabe/PA)

It is estimated that 40% of Irish households get rid of lightbulbs in their general waste.

WEEE Ireland is now asking everyone to reverse the damaging trend so that metals and glass can be recovered and reused.

Mr Donovan said: “Virtually all components of light bulbs can be recycled, while any hazardous materials are separated and treated in an environmentally friendly way.

“Householders and small firms can recycle their waste lightbulbs free of charge by returning them to their local hardware or lighting store, bringing them to their nearest local authority recycling centre or asking their lighting installer to return waste lightbulbs to their wholesaler.

“100% of waste lighting equipment returned is recycled here in Ireland at Irish Lamp Recycling in Kildare.

“As households across the country put up their Christmas trees, now is also the perfect time to recycle old and broken Christmas lights that no longer work and may have been sitting in boxes and drawers since last year or even years before that.”

If you accidentally break a CFL or fluorescent bulb, you are advised to ventilate the area immediately by opening all windows.

Carefully clear up the broken bulb using stiff cardboard to “scoop” up the material.

Brushing the broken pieces or vacuuming should not be used since this could raise the dust and increase the safety risks.

PPE should be worn to protect against respiratory injury from dusts and vapours, as well as other appropriate PPE to guard against cuts from the sharp debris.

If a person becomes unwell as a result of contact with a broken lamp, the emergency services should be called immediately.

More in this section