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Don’t let broken lights wreck the Christmas spirit

Two-third of end-of-life light bulbs are dumped in general waste bins in Ireland every year, according to recycling organisation WEEE Ireland.

An estimated 10 million bulbs were sold in the country last year and only 3.2 million were recycled. Around 6.8 million were lost to landfill or incineration and WEEE Ireland estimates that 40% of Irish households get rid of their light bulbs in the general waste.

‘When you dispose of fluorescent bulbs and compact fluorescent lamps in your regular rubbish, the risk of bulb breakage is high,’ says Leo Donovan, ceo of WEEE Ireland. ‘These bulbs can release harmful mercury vapour and metal dust into the air that can be hazardous to health and the environment.’

He is encouraging people to do more to ensure that the metal and glass parts can be recovered for further use in manufacturing. ‘Virtually all components of light bulbs can be recycled, while any hazardous materials are separated and treated in an environmentally friendly way,’ Donovan remarks. ‘100% of waste lighting equipment returned is recycled in Ireland at Irish Lamp Recycling in Kildare.’

As households across the country put up their Christmas trees, WEEE Ireland argues now is the perfect time to recycle Christmas lights that no longer work and that may have been sitting in boxes and drawers for years.

The organisation offers the following advice if fluorescent bulbs or compact fluorescent lamps accidentally break:       

  • Ventilate the area immediately by opening all windows.
  • Carefully clear up the broken bulb using stiff cardboard to scoop up the material.
  • Avoid brushing or vacuuming as this could raise dust and increase the safety risks.
  • Wear appropriate PPE to protect against respiratory injury from dusts and vapours as well as other appropriate PPE to guard against cuts from sharp debris.
  • If a person becomes unwell as a result of contact with a broken lamp, the emergency services should be called immediately.

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