Safety tips for the handling and transport of mercury bearing lighting

Handling

Keep old tubes and lamps in a cool, dry location where they will not be at risk of breaking. Handle the lights carefully at all times. Do not bind them together with sticky tape or other adhesive - keep separate.

Transport

Pack the lights carefully, preferably with cushioning, so that they do not break while transporting them.

Disposal in marked bins or boxes

Place individual tubes or lamps carefully in the bins or boxes provided so that they do not break. Do not bind them together. Tubes which are broken or bound together slow the recycling process and can make handling difficult for staff.

What to do if you break a fluorescent tube or CFL

While ordinary incandescent lamps can be disposed of with the usual household rubbish, CFL's, fluorescent tubes and some other high intensity lamps may present a health hazard if not handled correctly when broken, as they contain mercury. Although the mercury content of fluorescent lighting is small, lighting companies typically recommend that if a CFL or tube breaks, people should:

  • Open near windows and allow the room to ventilate for 15 minutes before cleaning up the broken light;
  • Do not vacuum the broken light as this can contaminate the appliance with mercury and spread the mercury through the air;
  • Use disposable rubber gloves rather than bare hands;
  • Use a disposable brush to very gently sweep up the pieces - making sure you don't scatter them more widely;
  • Use a moist paper towel to wipe up any remaining small fragments;
  • Wrap lighting remains in newspaper to ensure the glass cannot pierce a plastic bag and place in a bag or sealable container along with the cleaning equipment used (i.e. gloves, brush, damp paper); and
  • Place in your outside rubbish bin.

Source: Department of the Environment

For more information:

Waste Education Officer
Tel: (08) 9424 2271
E-mail: mail@rgang.org.au