Glow sticks, chemlights, or light sticks are one of the exciting products you may have come across at some stage of your life. Anyone can enjoy glow sticks. It is primarily used in a dance club, party, or concert.
Although glow sticks are made of non-flammable and non-toxic substances, it is best to learn how to dispose of them when needed. Glow sticks do not cause any harm. However, puncturing the tube causes the chemicals to leak, which might lead to minor irritation on the skin or eyes.
Since the chemicals in the plastic tubing cannot be recycled, you must find the best way to dispose of it. Some of the best ways to dispose of glow sticks include sealing them in an airtight plastic bag to prevent chemical leakage. You can also throw them in a landfill but seal them in an airtight bag to prevent leakage. Nature will operate as usual and eliminate it from the surrounding during decomposition.
How to Dispose of Glow Sticks
There is no known way to safely dispose of glow sticks, thanks to the chemicals and plastics that cannot be repurposed. Moreover, glass and other components of glow sticks end up polluting the environment in landfills. However, the following ways can help you dispose of glow sticks safely:
Throwing in Trash Can
You can dispose of glow sticks in a plastic bottle or bag them and throw-in in your garbage can, waiting for the garbage collectors to pick them up. Label it before that happens. After the glow stick is disposed of in a landfill, it will take time to decompose through nature’s action to eliminate it. Glow sticks do not decompose faster; throwing them in landfills is not the best option. Moreover, it may pose hazardous effects, as described earlier.
Handing It to The Local Garbage Collectors
Follow your state’s laws and regulations for hazardous waste product disposal. Wrap the glow stick waste product in an airtight plastic bag. Look for local garbage collectors in your area. You can do this by browsing online for garbage facilities near you.
After finding their contact information, contact them to come and take your hazardous waste. The garbage collector’s staff knows what to do after taking your garbage. However, you need to pay some cash depending on your state’s guidelines about hazardous waste disposal.
Reusing Old Glow Sticks
Although the glow stick is a disposable (one-time use item), you can use it for other purposes. For instance, you can collect numerous old glow sticks and create a wall hanging for your kids. You can also use them to decorate your bare wall after painting them with masterpiece paints. Before you throw your glowing stick in the trash can, ask yourself if it can still be used.
How to Dispose of Punctured Glow Sticks
A punctured glow stick means that the chemical can leak at any time. Therefore, you must dispose of it responsibly to avoid chemical leakage into the environment. To dispose of punctured glow sticks, put them in a tight glass bottle, plastic bottle, or airtight plastic bag.
Label the container as hazardous waste, then throw it in your trash can. Before labeling, ensure you have read and understood all your state’s guidelines and hazardous waste disposal laws. Don’t throw it in your trash can since once it is disposed of in a landfill, it will lead to soil and water pollution.
Locate the nearest hazardous waste recycling facility and drop it off in the trash container. If the hazardous waste collection facility offers door-to-door collection, you can contact them and let them come for the glow stick waste.
This is also feasible If there is no relevant hazardous waste facility near you. You need to pay a certain fee depending on the waste facility guidelines.
Are Glow Sticks Eco-Friendly?
Glow sticks are made of plastic, glass, and questionable chemicals; all non-biodegradable and non-renewable. The plastic used is mined from different locations, which leads to the destruction of the land structure and pollution. Moreover, studies show that at least 4.5 per cent of greenhouse gasses is due to plastic production. Although the amount of plastic used to make glow stick is small, frequent use leads to piling. That implies that the demand for plastics to make glow sticks is always high, needing more resources.
Some people use glow sticks to attract fish. It can cause water pollution if it breaks down into microplastics, jeopardising fish and other marine life. That’s because marine life will accidentally feed on these microplastics, mistaking them for food. Besides, these microplastics can enter the human body by eating fish. When consumed, microplastics are not digestible. This affects the immune system’s overall strength, meaning you will be vulnerable to bacterial and microbial attacks.
Glow sticks are also made of synthetic dyes such as Rhoda-mine B, which is harmful to the environment. Also, it is carcinogenic, toxic, and mutagenic. Although it is uncertain if there is plenty of Rhoda-mine dye in glow sticks to cause these effects, it is best to be careful.
Glow sticks also contain 9,10-Diphenyl-anthracene, a chemical compound believed to irritate when it contacts the skin. Although the compound is in small amounts and it’s unclear if it causes these effects, always be careful when handling it. Glow sticks also contain hydrogen peroxide. In low amounts, hydrogen peroxide is not harmful to the environment as it breaks into water and oxygen molecules. However, in high amounts, it may be detrimental to the environment.
How to Recycle Old Glow Sticks
As mentioned earlier, glow sticks are not eco-friendly; hence it’s best to repurpose old ones instead of throwing them in a trash can waiting for landfill disposal. However, there are many ways in which you can use old glow sticks, especially if they are not punctured. For example, you can apply your DIY skills and make holders for your weak plants, wall hangings in your rooms or decorations accessories for your wall. You can also use them to make luxurious bracelets.
How to Light Up Old Glow Sticks?
Glow sticks are made of a thin glass tube immersed in hydrogen peroxide. The tube has fluorescent dye and phenyl oxalate in a plastic cover. The chemical mix together when the thin glass tube is bent, thus producing magical light from the chemical reactions.
After lighting up a glow stick for the first time, it can last between five to 12 hours and turn off. However, you can light it against them, although they are single-use items. Follow the following procedure to relight an old glow stick:
- Fill your cooking pot with water and heat it to boing (make sure it is scalding hot)
- Immerse the old glow sticks in the water and let them rest for at least thirty seconds or a minute.
- The chemicals will react thanks to the heat provided by the hot water, initiating lighting up again.
Relighted old glow sticks can stay lit for half to one hour. After this time, it loses its lighting mechanism since the chemical reaction has reached the endpoint. The reaction between the chemicals in the glows stick is endothermic, meaning reducing heat from the surrounding reduces its progress; thus, the longer it stays lit.
The faster the chemical reaction, the faster it will burn, reducing the time taken. Therefore, you can reduce the chemical reaction by immersing the tube in a freezer of cold water to lower the rate of a chemical reaction.
How to Make Glow Sticks Last Longer?
- Keep the Stick in a Freezer
The reaction between the chemicals in the glow sticks tube is endothermic, meaning it needs heat to proceed. Increasing the amount of heat means the reaction is fully activated hence brighter light. However, as much as the light is bright, more chemicals are consumed due to rapid reaction; hence the light will not last long.
Although the light produced is not as bright, it lasts longer than when heat is supplied. So, to increase your glow stick’s lifespan, lower the surrounding temperature by immersing the tube in a freezer of ice-cold water. This reduces the rate of chemical reactions meaning fewer chemicals is used.
- Choose Bigger Glow Stick
Big glow sticks carry more chemicals that can support chemical reactions for a long time, meaning they can’t last long. Small glow stubs have fewer chemicals meaning it takes a short time to reach culmination.
- Store the Glow Tube in a Cold and Dry Place
Light and heat cause the degradation of the glow stick chemicals. This means they will be of low quality and hence cannot support bright light for a long time. Maintaining the chemical at their original quality makes them last longer.
- Choose Glow Sticks That Produce Yellow or Green Light
Chemicals in such glow stick last longer than blue or purple glow sticks. However, the brightness in blue or purple glow sticks is brighter than the light produced by yellow or green glow sticks.
What Happens When Glow Sticks Get Damaged?
Glow sticks get damaged when they break or are punctured, which can cause chemical leakage. If the chemical gets on your skin, wash it with plenty of water to prevent irritation.
Glow sticks take a long time to decompose if disposed of in landfills. Always check your glow stick to see if it can be reused. If it is broken, seal it in a plastic bag, throw it in the garbage can and wait for garbage collectors to dispose of it in landfills. Old glow sticks can be lit and used as new ones, although their lifespan is low. You can also dispose of glow sticks by using them to form other products such as hanging walls and decorations and to make poles for supporting weak plants.
Gemma Alexander has an M.S. in urban horticulture and a backyard filled with native plants. After working in a genetics laboratory and at a landfill, she now writes about the environment and recycling topics.