What is the proper way to dispose of old tubes?

Are tubes considered hazardous waste? Do they require special handling to dispose of properly? Or are they just regular trash that can be disposed of in the garbage?

Note: I am not looking for responses of the type, "I don't know/care, I just throw them in the garbage." I have a bunch of burned out old tubes that I want to get rid of, and I want to do so in compliance with applicable requirements.
The same way that you would throw out a dish or glass that has broken. That's what my dad did 50 years ago ... he owned and operated Chief Radio & Appliances in Brooklyn. He was the best bench technician out there.


Rar1 - Did your father have a Hickok tube tester ? We had one in lab I used to oversee. By around 1990, the institution no longer had any equipment that used tubes so one day we excessed about 500 tubes and the Hickok. I'd like to have it now, for nostalgia.
Most tubes are primarily constructed of ordinary metal parts in a vacuum inside a glass bulb.

However, most tubes also have a "getter" to absorb any stray air molecules that get in the tube. This is generally made out of barium which is toxic. (It is what creates the white interior coating on a tube that has leaked.)

You'll want to be careful not to inhale any dust from a broken tube. I'm sure the EPA probably has some double-secret procedure (ever seen the instructions for disposal of a compact fluorescent light bulb?) but as long as you exercise common sense it shouldn't be too much of a problem.
Let me clarify: I'm not worried about injuring myself, but rather with complying with applicable regulations regarding the disposal of items like this.

Ie, I am concerned with "doing the right thing."

[Stunned silence.]

One of the posts above indicates that tubes contain a toxic material. If so, then it may well be that there are rules regarding the disposal of tubes.

If anyone knows if there are such rules, that is the information I am looking for, together with suggestions as to where/how to dispose of the tubes. (For example, are there companies that specialize in the disposal of toxic materials like this?)
This is an interesting post, and I congratulate Jimjoyce25 for caring enough
to ask the question.

It reminds me of the hundreds of thousands of compact fluorescent light
bulbs that are presently being pushed as eco-friendly. These bulbs require
special disposal due to their mercury content. However, you'll not see
mention of this disposal requirement on most of the packaging. Rather, the
info is available only on certain websites, like this GE website.

I imagine the result is that fewer than 10% of these bulbs are disposed of
properly. Rather, they end up in the trash headed straight to our landfills.
For barium info see:

The official disposal of barium containing vacuum tubes would be similar to the handling for cathode ray tubes (CRTs). CRTs can contain quite a bit of lead (from shielding) which audio vacuum tubes do not contain.

Here are current EPA rules:


You will note that households are exempt from federal rules, even with all their lead content. Note that individual states (or other countries) may have different rules.
Where I live, there are special garbage depots in the city where items containing toxic wastes can be dropped off rather than simply disposed of in the regular garbage. Does your city use recylcing boxes and have recycling pick-up along with regular garbage? If so, the information on garbage pick up at your city's website would contain information as to how to dispose of household items like batteries, CFL lightbulbs, etc.
Sell them on ebay.
Jimjoyce and everyone else,
I would love to have your old tubes as long as they are not cracked. If you'd like to send them to me, please email me for my address.
Crazy former Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Tim Rossovitch used to eat light bulbs and other forms of glass http://www.badfads.com/pages/events/glasseating.html He'd probably be a good way to dispose of old tubes.

For what it's worth, he used to also drink down quarts of motor oil, in case the subject of how to dispose of your engine fluids comes up...
There is a small amount of barium or strontium oxide in many tubes. Barium oxide is quite hydroscopic and the compound does not last long in the environment (according to info on the Eco-usa.net website.) So if you were to inhale or eat newly opened vacuum tubes, there is potential exposure to a hazardous compound. But in reality, it seems this is a case of Quixote like "tilting at windmills." There is a relatively high level of barium in certain foods we eat and there is barium naturally occurring in some water supplies, so it's not as if the stuff is like polonium.

Good one.

RZC of TM on Ebay would be a good drop off for "old" tubes.
Sell them on Audiogon as "mint".
Put 'em in a blender and proceed as instructed here: (http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/imagepages/1064.htm)
Some older tubes contain mercury, a number of older Rectifiers did and a few other tubes.
Jim, locally here in town we have an operation called 'Asset Recovery' where we take things that the recycling people won't pick up from the curb. They take hazardous waste like vacuum tubes, and so once a year we take all our bad tubes, circuit boards, old transformer and any other electronics there, where they get dismantled and the various materials are recovered for re-use.


You might check and see if such an operation is going in your town; most major metro areas have some sort of operation like this.
A question that has crossed my mind about hazardous materials is this: If the substance in question is mined, then it is found in nature. Why can't we just return it to nature? The only exception I can see would relate to large concentration of certain materials posing a danger.
Macrojack, "If the substance in question is mined, then it is found in nature. Why can't we just return it to nature?"

These substances are NOT found in nature. Nor, do they return to nature in such a benign manner, or they would be labeled "biodegradable". Have you ever seen glass or the metals that form the getters, plate structures, or tube pins in nature? Of course not. Have you ever encountered lead or sulfuric acid in the quantities that exist in an automotive battery in nature? Again, the answer is, no. These are the products of synthesizing compounds from other compounds in an industrial laboratory or production plant setting.

You see the ores or other mother materials, which are quite different from the end product, and normally come from a very different place than where your local landfill resides. There's a lot of work involved in getting them to the concentrated and "pure" state you see, which is often dirty work that the producing site is required/able to deal with.

It's the ethical and legal responsibility of everyone to dispose of things in the proper manner so that we don't have the various compounds we encounter in our daily lives come back to harm us later or create the need for unnecessary and expensive means to protect us from them.
Trelja- Everything you've mentioned IS found in nature. The materials used in our tubes are in large part are all elements or alloyed elements(in the case of steel). Copper, zinc, nickel, lead, gold, and barium are all metals commonly found in vacuum tubes(and are ALL elements). Sulfuric acid comprises most of the atmosphere of the planet Venus, which(last time I looked) wasn't "synthesized" by anyone on this planet. Ever heard of, "acid Rain"? Guess what "acid" it contains. Glass is made of silicone and oxygen(same chemical composition as quartz), and of course there's plenty of silica on every beach of the world. You probably(hopefully) brushed you teeth with some this morning.
Rodman99999, your post perfectly illustrates the old saying, "a LITTLE knowledge is dangerous".

Again, NO, YOU DON'T FIND ANY OF THESE THINGS IN NATURE. I don't know how much clearer I can say that.

The elements on your list are not found in the forms you seems to think they are. Metals like copper are found not as metallic copper, but in different mineral configurations (such as malachite, azurite, and so on), along with things like carbon, oxygen, sulfur, other metals, etc. Steel, used in tube pins, plate structures, component chassis, etc. exists nowhere in the natural, it is an alloy created by man of varying elements, including iron, carbon, and other materials depending on what it is to be used for.

Go down your list, and each item does not exist as itself, but as something else. During the last few thousand years, we have attained the ability to process compounds that we find in nature into countless other compounds which can be used to make life better, easier, or longer. However, it is the height of naivete and arrogance to believe that we can discard these things we have created in a cavalier way, as the potential of many of them is to make life worse, more difficult, or shorter.

The overarching truth is that there is an order to our environment and the entire universe. Man's inherent ignorance, which ranges from the way many organizations and countries conduct business to some of the posts you see in this thread to even some of the most powerful (and, supposedly, knowledgeable) scientists, is that we have somehow conquered this understanding to the level where we can act in whatever manner suits us at the moment. Instead, we need to recognize and accept our position as stewards of the environment so that ourselves and our children do not suffer the consequences of what that ignorance will inevitably bring.

A final note, not to hit you over the head with the chemistry, but the glass you mention is made of "silicon", not "silicone"; two distinct and very different substances. In truth, "glass" is simply any composition of ceramic (a metal bonded to a nonmetal) compounds, which in the proper proportions combined with specific processing, do not form a crystal structure, which is the reason light can pass through it. I've literaly made hundreds of glass compositions, some of which had silicon, and many of which did not. Oh, and yes, I brushed my teeth this morning, and the toothpaste I use contains silica - put into the formulation to provide tartar control and polishing.
Excuse the hell out of my mis-spelling of "silica"(it was 4:30am when I typed that, and must have had implants on my mind). Obviously- I know the difference, as I spelled it correctly in my reference to the beach, and you further picked up my meaning regarding your toothpaste. If you'll re-read my post, I mentioned steel is an alloy(nothing caught there, just the typical liberal obfuscation). You asked if sulfuric acid is ever found in nature in the quantities found in a battery. Is the amount in the atmosphere of Venus enough for you? You continuously used the term, "synthetic" throughout your alarmist post. Absolutely nothing that you mentioned is a "synthetic". It's no secret to me that almost everything on the Periodic Table generally is found in some combination with other elements as a compound, and must be extracted or refined. That(refining) DOES NOT make them "synthetics". I lived in Cleveland, Ohio for 26 years, and I am very aware of what industry and the refining process can do to the environment. The bottom line though: If everyone that frequents the threads of AudioGon took every vacuum tube they possess to a landfill and dumped them today, the impact on the ecology would be ZILCH(maybe less)! I suppose you would support a movement to extract all the sodium from the oceans, because the fish are developing high blood pressure. Then again: Perhaps you're not a tree-hugger, but rather a muslim and would prefer we all returned to living in tents, riding camels and burning their crap for heat?
It's obvious that it smarts when someone takes you apart in the way I did, Rodman9999.
So, Jimjoyce25, have you decided how to dispose of your old tubes? What are
you going to do with them?

I toss mine in the trash. IMO, it's more damaging to our environment to get in
my car and drive 20 miles round trip to the appropriate LA recycling facility.
What exactly did you, "take apart"? Like I said, I found nothing in your retort but the usual liberal obfuscation. And- So you continue(ad nauseum).
What exactly did I take apart? Just as you didn't (hopefully, wikipedia has since cleared it up for you) know the difference between silicon, silicone, and silica, you haven't yet grasped it, but it's YOU! Give it a little more time, it'll eventually sink in.

You screwed up again by calling me a liberal, but it won't be the first (or second) time you've been wrong in this thread.
Tvad: I attempted to dispose of them at two e-waste recycling events that were scheduled in my area over the weekend. I have perhaps 40 of them, so it was worth taking the time to dispose of them the right way.

Unfortunately, neither of these events seemed actually to have been held, as no recycling collection station was evident upon my arrival.

Instead, I will be sending them to Oregon for use by his friend in an artistic composition.
Instead, I will be sending them to Oregon for use by his friend in an artistic composition.
Jimjoyce25 (Threads | Answers)
What a great solution!

Good for you.
Trelja- I DO(and did) know the difference between silicone and silica, as(again) is obvious by the fact that I correctly used the term "silica" correctly twice elsewhere in my post(as the meanest of intellects would have noticed- No points for you there). Who ever mentioned "silicon" anywhere before you/now(another attempted spin)? TRY(though it's obviously impossible for you) to focus on the original issues. YOU made statements in your original post in regards to vacuum tube components that I challenged. Everything contained therein IS found in nature, and mostly elemental(gold, silver, copper, barium, nickel, zinc, carbon, chromium) none of which are "synthetics" by any stretch of the imagination(something you are blatantly long on)though they all do need some processing before use. Mica is also quite "natural", being taken from the ground and used almost as-is. Steel(as I mentioned in my first post and since you only see what you want to see: missed) is an alloy, BUT- that used in our tubes is a very simple mild steel that WOULD rust and eventually break down into it's original elemental components(return to nature). The glass you mentioned in your alarmist post is also simple glass(NOT some exotic blend or anything you've concocted) and(as mentioned in my post) of the same chemical composition as quartz and sand(YES Sparky- SILICA and oxygen) NOT a "synthetic". The point is: EVERYTHING in the average vacuum tube is quite harmless with regards to the ecology. YOU used the term, "bio-degradable"(which has NOTHING to do with "benign") in your first post. Only "organics" are "bio-degradable" by definition, so obviously: nothing in a vacuum tube COULD be! You've twice artfully danced around my challenge of your sulfuric-acid-not-being-found-in-nature(in any quantity) statement. No doubt the natural composition of the atmosphere of Venus(or acid rain) is too much truth for you to handle and respond to. Twist, spin and turn a bit more. It's mildly amusing!
Rodman99999, we're going to name your posts in this thread "dumb and dumber". Despite all of your thrashing, you still have almost ZERO idea what you're talking about. As I said, you've provided a perfect example of how having a little, and I do mean little, knowledge is dangerous.

Sand is not "silica" and oxygen. It's SILICA. Silicon dioxide - silicon AND oxygen. Simple, yes? Let's keep it that way - KISS - keep it simple, stupid. That should work out fine for you. Let's not even get into the term you threw out there, "synthetic" yet. That's in the intermediate class.

After we get these two, silicon and silica, down, maybe we'll tackle silicone if we're feeling ambitious and you've had a big enough breakfast.

Don't worry, at some point, with proper coaching and a bit more work on your part, you'll get it right...
Touche' Trelja- I stepped it in with the silica, silicon and silicone(sili of me). I suppose I've sniffed too many silca gel packs lately. I'll henceforth leave early morninig posting alone(and eat a "big enough breakfast" instead). Care to address any of the points that actually pertain to the thread, and whether the elements that vacuum tubes contain(and appear on the Periodic Table) are EVER considered "synthetics", or harmful to the environment? I'm still anxious to hear your reply to the question of sulfuric acid, in quantity, being found in nature as well.
Art -- perfect. I bought a big batch of random tubes for a few bucks, mostly from old TVs and the like, just for fun. Some are really beautiful objects.

When I showed them to an artist friend, she wanted to use them in some sort of future creation which I thought was a great idea. I'll get first dibs on buying it, so I figure my $3 worth of tubes will now cost me a grand ;-)

Jimjoyce25, good on you all around.

I am shocked, SHOCKED at the incredible lack of scientific knowledge displayed in this thread!

The critical consideration that arises from the original question "are tubes considered hazardous waste?" has been completely ignored!

Let's put on our thinking caps, people. We call them "tubes," but actually they are "VACUUM tubes." Once the glass envelope containing the vacuum has been broken or otherwise compromised, the vacuum is released directly into the environment!

We're all familiar with the saying "Nature abhors a vacuum," aren't we? Can you name anything else Nature abhors? No? I thought not.

I rest my case.
Rodman99999, I need to jump off of this thread, as I'm about to leave out for RMAF2008, and am in a relatedly ebullient mood. At any rate, I appreciate your sense of humor!

Yes, you're right, there is sulfuric acid on Venus. I was ignoring that and discounting Venus as "nature", as we do not live on Venus, nor does it support life as we know it, and couldn't because of that. With your permission, I'll revise my statement to mean nature in this case, being earth, specifically. But, considering nature as the universe, things like sulfuric acid, methane, ammonia and other things we could never tolerate in more than small quantities exist on other planets in high concentration. Anyway, as they say, women are from Venus, men are from Mars...

If one of my tubes physically broke, came apart from its base, or whatever, what would I do? I'd simply throw it in the trash. Apart from all of the back and forth in this thread, there really isn't much to worry about with a tube.

Now, as for me, how do I actually dispose of my vacuum tubes? In fact, I don't. Instead, I take a bit of string, tie it around the base or pins of the tube, and use them for Christmas tree decorations. I kid you not. People inevitably ask about them, and always think they're cool. One of these years, I should wire a couple of tube sockets into my string lights, and actually up the wacky factor by setting the tubes on glow.
Trelja- It wouldn't take much voltage to get the filaments lit. I'd like to see pictures of that(no doubt: every other AudioGoner would too)! Ya know- I never thought about that fact(women are from Venus). Is that why they're so acidic, er- acetic, OOPS- I mean acerbic?(there I go again) =8^) Have fun at the AudioFest.
Lighting your Christmas tree with illuminated vacuum tubes could well qualify you for a Darwin Award.
The filaments of most of our tubes only take 6 or 12 volts to illuminate. Way less than the 120 most strings require. Actually- Vacuum tubes would be safer on a tree. NOW- If you wanted plate voltage applied, THAT would be another story(and just might earn one a 'Darwin')!
Trejla and Rodman,
Where is the LOVE?
Mercy, mercy, me...

OK. Now that everything's kool and the gang, send me your tubes. I have a friend who is a master artist. He would love to have any tubes to use in his art.
Please don't throw them away.
Oregon- Sometimes LOVE has to get tough! If one can't have fun- What's the point in all this? Next time a tube toasts, I'll have you in mind and donate to the cause. Do donors get pics of the creation(s)?
Yes, I will post photos as soon as I get loaded.
I mean the pics loaded onto my computer.
OK guys. For a photo of El Grego's art, go to my system and click on "El Grego Black Swan". This is one of his latest creations. It does not utilize a vacuum tube. But it's just a matter of time.
When he does, I will post a photo.
I have other photos of his sculptures. Shoot me an email if you'd like to see more.
That's a really interesting sculpting, though it's Gluteus Maximuses(Maximi?) aren't exactly anatomically correct. Artistic license and all that, I suppose. Then again- I've never met the model, so how would I know?