How to Throw Away a Fluorescent Bulb

Compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) are a great way to save energy and lower your electricity bills, but those cute, curly-cue bulbs are beginning to make some families nervous. Why the panic? One word: mercury. Websites and blogs have sprung up across the Internet warning that the presence of CFLs in your home or workplace can result in everything from hair loss to birth defects. Most of this has been overstated. Francis Rubinstein, a Berkley Lab scientist, argues that even if your child attacked a CFL with a baseball bat, not to worry––your tot would ingest no more mercury than if he ate a can of tuna. The amount of mercury in the average CFL is no more than 4 milligrams––about the amount that would cover the tip of a ballpoint pen. While that isn’t a lot of mercury, disposing of a CFL should be done responsibly. And the safest, most environmentally friendly option is recycling. Easy and convenient options exist for both businesses and consumers to recycle mercury-containing lamps. Here are few avenues to explore:

Your local garbage service
The best place to start is with your local garbage man. Even if a commercial contractor provides your trash collection, your local municipality is the one responsible for the waste disposal. Check local listings for sanitation services and call to see if they have a CFL recycling program. If not, politely suggest they start one.

Big Box Retailers
More and more big box retailers are starting recycle programs. Ikea was one of the first major vendors to offer a free take back program. Home Depot has also launched a CFL recycling program. Almost 2,000 Home Depot locations will now accept any type of CFL for recycling without charge.

Disposal By Mail
There are a variety of for-profit companies that also provide CFL disposal by mail. If you can’t find a local option, then this is the ticket. One company, Waste Management (www.wm.com), will send you a postage-paid combination storage and shipping box that accommodates 13 CFLs.