An even brighter idea – disposing of CFL bulbs the right way

Embracing CFL bulbs makes saving the green — in your wallet and the environment — an easy task, but there is one twist that homeowners may not be aware of. The next time you’re disposing of a CFL bulb, stop before you toss it in the garbage. 

Almost every piece of a CFL bulb can be recycled. Check out earth911.com to find the recycling center nearest you.

A little more than two hundred years ago, a Cornish chemist by the name of Sir Humphry Davy connected wires to a battery and a piece of carbon, causing the carbon to glow. This seemingly insignificant event was the first step toward a life-changing, modern convenience we have all come to know and love: electric lighting.

Electric lighting has come a long way since Davy’s time, and today the options are practically limitless. Lighting technology has only continued to improve over the years, and one of the greatest recent revelations has been the invention of the CFL, or compact fluorescent lightbulb. This eco-friendly alternative to the traditional incandescent bulb has many benefits: CFLs use 50–80% less energy than incandescent bulbs, are four times more efficient, and last up to 10 times longer. Also, CFLs are a very affordable option. When they were first introduced in the 1980s, CFLs broke the bank at $25-30 per bulb. Today, you can purchase a four-pack for around five to ten dollars. Swapping a regular bulb with an Energy Star qualified CFL will save you around $6 a year in electricity costs and $40 or more over the lifetime of the bulb.

Embracing CFL bulbs makes saving the green — in your wallet and the environment — an easy task, but there is one twist that homeowners may not be aware of. The next time you’re disposing of a CFL bulb, stop before you toss it in the garbage. Although you’ve made an earth-conscious decision by choosing CFL, trashing these bulbs is harmful to the environment. CFLs contain very small amounts of mercury, so special consideration must be taken when disposing of these bulbs. Here are 4 tips to help you discard your CFL bulb the right way:

 

  1. Don’t break the bulb.
    CFL bulbs don’t release mercury when they are intact, so take care to not break the bulb. You can place the bulb in a glass jar with a metal lid or a sealable plastic bag to avoid any potential vapor leakage.
     
  2. If you do break the bulb, be sure to clean up properly.
    -Clear people and animals out of the room.
    -Air out the room for 5-10 minutes.
    -Be sure to turn off your heating and air-conditioning system so that the vapors don’t circulate throughout your home.
    -Collect all of the broken pieces with stiff paper or cardboard, sticky tape, and a damp paper towel.
    -Seal the broken pieces and cleanup materials in a glass jar with a metal lid or a sealable plastic bag.
     
  3. Recycle the bulb.
    Did you know that almost every piece of a CFL can be recycled? There are thousands of free or low-cost recycling centers across the United States. Check out earth911.com to find the location nearest you. If you don’t have access to a recycling center, try a mail-back service. Some CFL vendors and other organizations sell recycling kits that allow you to mail-back the used bulb or bulbs. Check out epa.gov/cfl for a list of mail-back services.
     
  4. Know the law.
    In some states and localities, recycling isn’t an option — it’s the law. Call your local waste management or recycling center to learn about the laws in your area.
     

With a little extra thought and care, you can use — and dispose of — CFLs the right way. By choosing to be eco-friendly, you can not only save the environment but also pocket a little extra green along the way. The earth, and your wallet, will thank you.

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