Glow Sticks

This term describes plastic tubes full of chemicals that funsters like to buy to wave around while the plastic tubes glow green or red or purple etc. Usually the light is started by bending the plastic tube to break a fragile glass tube of some chemical inside the flexible plastic tube. As a rule, even environmentally oriented groups become so excited by the idea of light emitting tubes that all caution goes out the window. They don’t ask themselves what chemicals are in the tubes and they especially don’t ask what they will do with the tubes after they stop emitting light. At festivals, the tubes are left lying all around on the ground. Otherwise, they are just thrown into garbage cans. Individual consumers who rarely intersect with the chemical world, who rarely think of themselves as responsible for buying choices that create “hazardous waste” , gaily create waste that may be called “hazardous” with hardly a second thought. After all, they are having fun, aren’t they, and what else could be more important?

The fact is that there are many different chemicals inside those tubes since there are many chemical processes which produce light by a chemical reaction. There are even some tubes that have LED lights inside them and run on small batteries. There is no such thing as “proper disposal”, much less “proper recycling” no matter what those proponents may claim. The only progressive move at this point is to avoid these devices like the plague.

In order to take a small, tentative step toward responsible usage, the critical move would be to have every glow stick be labelled on the side of the tube with the exact chemical composition of the contents. This should be required by regulations.

Just to give the flavor of the discussion of the device among the recyclers, I quote an article by the Earth911 website.