Is It Possible? How To Dispose Of Glow Sticks Properly & Efficiently

In all our reviews on Puratium, we strive to do our best to reduce waste at home: in ours, and in yours too!

Your field of action is broader than you think. Adopting a low waste lifestyle is not only about reducing food waste. It also comes down to changing your habits in your wardrobe, cleaning ingredients, personal care products, furniture, or small objects you use once in a while, like glow sticks.

Let’s follow the zero waste logic in this review as usual:

  • Refuse/Reduce: let’s explore the solutions together on how to avoid and replace conventional glow sticks with what you have at home. And, as a last resort, with more sustainable alternatives.
  • Reuse: let’s be creative with the ones you already have at home.
  • Recycle: let’s make sure to dispose of the remaining waste with little damage done to the environment. Being a conscious and well-informed customer is the first milestone in your eco journey.
How To Dispose Of Glow Sticks Properly
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Do You Really Need Glow Sticks?

Let’s have a look at the traditional uses for a glowing stick and explore alternatives that last longer. As well as being more easily recyclable.

Traditionally, they are used for recreational purposes (as toys, or part of shows in cultural events). But, also as safety markers in the military or police work.

  • When it comes to kids or shows, why not try neon colored clothes that can be worn several times, then donated? Potentially, you could also sew small LED lights in your costumes. It is easier to repurpose these items later on.
  • The solution is trickier to find for safety markers. Conventional glow tubes are water resistant, very affordable, do not require any battery, and can tolerate high pressure. Do you already have a flashlight at home? Consider this option for camping, for example. Some flashlights or headlamps are solar powered or can be manually charged with a small handle. Which in this case, makes them a long lasting, multipurpose alternative—more on this topic under the section ‘Eco friendly alternatives’ below.
Camping outdoors
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How Can You Reuse Glow Sticks?

  • Make them glow again! This is where Wikihow comes into action. If you have a bit of time and a zip-locked bag (or a plastic bag you already have at home), give it a try (1).
  • Make them last longer: put the sticks in the freezer as it will slow down the chemical reaction. Once you take them out of the freezer, they will start to glow again as they reach room temperature (2). Quite a useful trick should you need the glow sticks a few times for a short period of time.
  • Bracelets. Glow sticks are – unfortunately – designed for single use. However, get creative with friends and children by teaching them a tremendous upcycling lesson. Combine old glow sticks with colorful thread and embroidery floss. Have a look at the video for all the steps.
  • Ad hoc use for science fairs or DIY toys (for kids or pets!). These sticks are flexible yet resistant. Make sure to pour out the liquid from the sticks safely. Please avoid contact with your skin as it may cause irritation. And, always seek medical advice in case of doubts.
Glow Sticks
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How Can You Properly Dispose Of Glow Sticks?

Unfortunately, there is no safe and environmentally friendly way to recycle glow sticks. Because of the use of chemicals, the plastic cannot be reused or repurposed.

As for the substances and the glow sticks overall, they end up polluting our soil in landfills.

Are you wondering how do glow sticks work precisely, and why is this linked to environmental concerns?

The characteristic, cheery light they produce once you snap at them is simply the result of a chemical reaction. Namely, two key ingredients: hydrogen peroxide and phenyl oxalate ester, will undergo a reaction that goes by the fancy name of ‘chemiluminescence’ (3).

Rest assured, glow sticks are sealed and should not cause any problem when being manipulated.

However, should you be concerned that they might crack open as your children extensively chew the plastic, the ingredients are not particularly toxic. Should an accident happen, it is recommended to rinse your skin and mouth with water abundantly.

And, for your peace of mind (especially in case of ingestion), consult with your GP and call your local poison control unit.

Eco Alternatives To Glow Sticks

Let’s be blunt; there is not really one option that we are genuinely a fan of at the moment.

It is possible to find glowsticks online that will function for a few days rather than hours, but we do not believe this is the right approach for the reason mentioned above on recycling.

As often mentioned in Puratium, we do not intend to throw shame or guilt at your habits.

We wish you can join us in our low waste community thanks to reducing plastic at home, and opt for eco friendly alternatives when the conventional product cannot be repurposed or recycled easily.

Curious about how to further reduce waste at home thanks to step by step solutions? Start by having a look at our approach for the kitchen and bathroom.

Light cone
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When it comes to replacing glow sticks, the only sustainable solution we would recommend to buy – as a last resort – are flashlights. Here a few long lasting, multi-use examples of this device:

  • A self powered flashlight: the principle is simple. It is the shaking movement that triggers the light.
  • A solar powered flashlight that can last a lifetime!
  • A rechargeable option, and made of sustainably sourced material such as wood rather than plastic.

Final Thoughts

We sincerely hope this article has convinced you that glowing sticks are one of these millions of unnecessary, single use items out there that can be avoided.

One day, someone might invent a safe, compostable alternative. However, we have not found one yet. Right now, we can only encourage you to ‘Refuse’ this type of purchase.

Nevertheless, we understand that some of you might still have glow sticks at home and that you can consider upcycling them before throwing them in the garbage.

We wrote a similar review on how to reuse and properly recycle bubble wrap here.

Please share with us how you repurpose glow sticks at home and other hard-to-recycle items. Let’s grow the low waste community together!



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