Green Reefkeeping-Disposing of Metal Halide Bulbs
In the reef keeping hobby, lighting is almost as important as our water chemistry. Over the last decade, we have seen a transition from large flourescent tubes to metal halide (HQI) bulbs, and lately to LED’s. While LED’s do appear to be the future of lighting for the reef keeping hobby, many of us still run older metal halide and flourescent tube bulbs on our systems. These technologies require us to replace bulbs every few months to a year. This begs the question of how to properly dispose of this sizable waste product of our hobby. The unfortunate thing about these bulbs is that they contain mercury and in some cases lead. Both of which are toxic to our environment as well as to ourselves.
In doing some research on this, it appears that the letter of the law only requires commercial facilities to send these wastes to a proper disposal facility, the average home reef keeper should also take some caution. Most importantly, these bulbs need to be protected against breaking which will release the mercury vapor into the environment. Whether this is in your home waste can, or at the waste facility/incinerator that they end up at, these bulbs need to be protected against breaking so that the toxic chemicals are not released into the environment. The best way it appears to do this is to consult your local waste collection facility and ask them who or where you can dispose of this type of waste. Keeping these and other toxic chemicals out of our landfills, drinking water, and coastal environments is not only a good thing for those organisms in the immediate area, but these chemicals tend to make their way back up the food chain and can have lasting effects for years to come. Let’s make sure the beauty we create in our tanks doesn’t lessen the beauty of our planet somewhere else.