A compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) bulb is a newer technology that is much more energy efficient. One CFL can last eight to 15 times longer than its incandescent counterpart while using just one-third of the energy (and possibly as little as one-fifth). While a CFL costs more than a traditional incandescent bulb, it will save over five times the purchase price in electricity costs. Think about not having to change those pesky bulbs so often and paying lower energy bills! See our blog comparing types of light bulbs. However, today’s CFL requires a bit more attention when it’s come to the end of its life and we recommend to participate in CFL recycling.
Fluorescent bulbs, like a CFL, contain mercury and when broken can release it into the environment. While naturally occurring at small doses, mercury overexposure can have negative impacts on people and animals. Because of this fact and that CFLs contain other components, like the glass and metal, that can be reused, the EPA recommends recycling the bulbs. Virtually all parts of the bulb can be recycled. In fact, some states like Vermont and California require it. The U.S. EPA does not require CFLs to be recycled and neither does Kentucky, but it’s great practice to both be safe and environmentally conscious.
There are a few locations that participate in CFL recycling for free. Home Depot, True Value, and Lowe’s all have recycling programs. You can also drop off at a local government program, called Haz-Bin located at 7501 Grade Lane. Haz-Bin is open from 9 in the morning to 3 in the afternoon Wednesdays and Saturdays.
If you choose not to recycle your CFL bulb, the EPA recommends at least sealing the burnt-out bulb in a plastic bag before throwing it out with the trash. This way, the plastic will keep the mercury from seeping into the environment. However, bear in mind that plastic is also another large environmental concern. Plastic is made through oil and doesn’t really biodegrade. The only things that can degrade plastic are water or sunlight, and then it breaks down and releases harmful chemicals into the environment.
Many CFL manufacturers also have a mail-back service. Purchasing the kit, which will safely package the CFL bulbs, also pays for shipping back to the manufacturer.
Safely Disposing Of A Broken CFL
The average CFL contains about 4 milligrams of mercury. While a CFL is pretty hardy, it can break. In the event of a broken CFL, the small amount of mercury and the short timespan of exposure in the event are too insignificant to present a health concern. Some manufacturers have even been reducing the amount of mercury in their bulbs and the composition can be as low as 1.4 milligrams.
If a CFL does smash, clear the room and air it out by opening a window. If you can, shut off your air circulation for that period of time. Sweep up as much of the glass as you can and avoid using the vacuum as it may spread the mercury vapors. Dispose of the CFL particles in an airtight container and if you can, take that to a recycling center.
However, overall, CFLs actually reduce mercury emissions through their manufacturing process and by easing the dependence on coal-powered plants.
If you need help with your home’s lighting, call us today!