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Where can I recycle the fluorescent tube lights from my home?
In St. Louis, locally-owned Metro Lighting will accept consumer fluorescent tubes for free if you buy new tubes, or for a small fee if you just want to recycle them. In other areas, check with Earth 911 about this service. Big-box stores that recycle compact fluorescent bulbs do NOT accept the tubular bulbs, due to handling issues.
FYI, by law individuals may dispose of fluorescent tubes in your landfill trash. Large-quantity generators of this waste stream – including the Missouri Botanical Garden - have to contract with a fluorescent bulb recycling service, but homeowners legally do not. When a tube is burned out, the mercury gas that was sealed in the tube to make the tube coating fluoresce is fused to the glass - which is why the bulb no longer produces light. So breaking a burned-out bulb into a dumpster is no longer an air quality issue.
You take an extra step of environmental protection when you recycle your household tubes. And the recycling technology that recovers formerly gaseous mercury from the shattered glass is amazing! When transporting tubular bulbs to a location for recycling, always transport them in a box – save a box for recycling when you buy new tubes – to avoid a broken glass hazard.
Learn more about fluorescent lighting efficiency and handling safety from the US Environmental Protection Agency, including details for a few states that prohibit any fluorescent bulb disposal in landfills.