Can I get more information about recycling CFLs?

More information about recycling CFLs and other types of lamps.

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What should I do with my used CFL bulb?

Once a CFL bulb burns out, most of the mercury has been used up. However, it’s still important that the bulb remain intact – you should not break or crush it. If possible, return the CFL bulb to its original packaging and take it to your county’s solid waste facility for proper disposal, at no charge. TIP: All CFL bulbs have at least a two-year warranty. If yours fails within this time, return it to the place of purchase for a replacement.

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Should I still use CFL bulbs?

The answer is YES! CFL bulbs use up to 75% less energy than incandescent bulbs and last up to 10 times longer. CFL bulbs actually prevent more mercury from entering the environment by helping to reduce coal-fired power plant emissions. On average, a coal-fired power plant emits 10 milligrams of mercury to run an incandescent bulb, compared with only 2.4 milligrams to run a CFL (source: U.S. EPA). Experts agree that given a choice between CFL bulbs and incandescent bulbs, CFLs are better for your home and the environment. For more information on all sources of mercury, visit www.epa.gov/mercury.

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Can’t I just throw my CFL bulb in the trash?

Compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) contain a trace amount of mercury, which is an essential part of the bulb, allowing it to be an efficient lighting source. This amount is extremely small—an average of 4 milligrams (that’s about the size of the period at the end of this sentence). For comparison, it would take all the mercury in 100-400 CFL bulbs to equal the amount of mercury in just 1 home thermometer.

While the mercury in just 1 CFL bulb does not pose a hazard to you or to the environment, there are millions of CFLs currently being used in households and businesses. Therefore, it is important that we all make an effort to keep large concentrations of CFLs out of landfills by taking them to a local recycle center.

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What if my bulb breaks?

Because CFLs contain a small amount of mercury, the EPA recommends opening a window and leaving the room for 15 minutes or more. Scoop up the fragments and powder with stiff paper or cardboard and place them in a sealable plastic bag. (Do not vacuum or sweep.) For hard surfaces, wipe the area with a damp paper towel to pick up any stray shards of glass or smaller particles. Put the used towel and any other clean up materials in the plastic bag and seal it. Sticky tape (such as duct tape) can be used on soft surfaces like carpet to pick up small pieces and powder.

Place all bagged and sealed materials outdoors in a trash container for the next normal trash pickup. You can also, contact your area’s municipal solid waste agency or visit http://earth911.org to locate nearby facilities that will accept and recycle your broken bulb. As an extra precaution, the next time the area is vacuumed, remove the bag after vacuuming (or empty and wipe the canister), put the bag or vacuum debris in a sealed plastic bag and throw it in the trash.                         

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What happens to the CFL bulb once I take it for disposal?

Any mercury that is still contained in the bulb is recovered and prepared for use in commercial applications. The glass and ballasts are recycled or placed in a hazardous waste landfill.                         

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