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Never place them into the recycling cart

If you have old fluorescent bulbs or tubes in need of disposal, you need to recycle them the right way. And that means never placing them in the recycling carts.

Fluorescent bulbs and tubes contain mercury, which is very hazardous. And, yes, even the small curly fluorescent bulbs, which are called compact fluorescent lamps (or CFLs) contain mercury.

Here’s what you should do:

Take fluorescent bulbs, tubes, and CFLs to a retailer that sells these items in order for them to be safely recycled.

Dane County and City of Madison ordinances require retailers that sell fluorescents to have a program to accept them for recycling. Some retailers may need to charge a small fee for their recycling program, so be sure to check with your chosen retailer about fees before taking bulbs to them.

Never place old fluorescent bulbs, tubes, or CFLs in the recycling cart at your home or business. Workers sort through material placed into your recycling cart by hand at the recycling facility. Placing these bulbs and tubes into the recycling could expose those workers to hazardous mercury when the bulbs break.

If you break a fluorescent bulb, be sure to follow the EPA guidelines on how to quickly and safely clean the area.

For more information about the hazards of mercury exposure, visit the Wisconsin Department of Health Services’ website.

Additional information about fluorescent recycling can also be found on the Streets Division website,