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Light bulbs

Energy-saving bulbs and fluorescent tubes don’t belong in household rubbish

Energy-saving bulbs and fluorescent tubes don’t belong in the bin with household rubbish. Instead, they must be separated from other rubbish and protected from breaking. Just like old batteries or electrical and electronic equipment, used energy-saving bulbs must be disposed of at waste material collection centres (also known as “Mistplätze” or “Recyclinghöfe” in Austria), or at the dealer.

Disposing of energy-saving bulbs

The latest generation of energy-saving bulbs contain only very tiny quantities of mercury

What do I do if an energy-saving bulb breaks?

Energy-saving bulbs with the latest technology contain only very tiny quantities of mercury – less than two milligrams (Fachverband für Elektro- und Elektronikindustrie, 2011), while older or low-quality products may contain up to five milligrams (the legal limit). By way of comparison, a mercury thermometer contains about 1,000 mg of mercury. The only way for these small quantities of mercury to escape is if an energy-saving bulb breaks. Bulbs do not give off mercury when they are in use, in storage, or being changed.

When a bulb does break, the shards must be gathered up and placed in a sealable container (do not use a vacuum cleaner or broom to pick them up, or handle them with your bare hands). The room should then be thoroughly ventilated for a brief time – about 15 minutes.

The collected fragments should never be placed in household rubbish; rather, they must be properly disposed of at collection centres, just like used but undamaged energy-saving bulbs.

What should I do with burnt-out incandescent bulbs?

Unlike energy-saving bulbs, incandescent bulbs must be disposed of with other household waste, since they are not subject to the WEEE directive. Nor may they be disposed of with recyclable glass or metal. In Upper Austria, however, they may be disposed of with the flat glass (Flachglas) category.

What should I do with broken LED bulbs?

LED bulbs are separated and collected in the same collection category as gas-discharge lamps, and must therefore be disposed of through waste material collection centres.