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How to...Recycle CFLs

collection_of_cfb_1.gifWant to buy compact fluorescent light bulbs but worry about how to throw them -- and the mercury they contain -- away? Here are five suggestions inspired by Lighterfootstep.com

1) Talk to the trash man. If your trash is collected by a private service, call the number on your bill and ask the company how they handle CFLs. If they simply toss them in with the rest of the garbage, suggest they begin a recycling program to prevent mercury build-up in your local environment.

2) Call city hall. If your trash is collected by your municipality, contact your local municipal solid waste manager and ask where you should take your CFLs. Again, if they tell you to just throw your bulbs in the trash, educate them about the mercury in the bulbs. Then hang up the phone and call someone else!

3) Drop them at Home Depot. The Home Depot and Ikea now accept all CFLs for recycling. To find the Ikea nearest you, go here. To find the Home Depot nearest you, go here. Another option: contact Earth 911. Plug in your zip code to find the nearest CFL recycling center.

4) Pay to send them away. Commercial companies like Lightbulbrecycling.com will send you a PVC bucket with a lid that will accommodate about 30 CFLs. Collect them from your neighbors and friends, and have everyone pitch in to mail the bulbs back.

5) Consider storage. If no easy recycling options are available to you, just store the bulbs until you can recycle them. Place them in a 5-gallon bucket with a lid or a sturdy cardboard box. Cushion the bulbs with newspaper so they don’t break. And keep an eye out at your local post office, where the Environmental Protection Agency may soon be putting CFL recycling boxes.

NOTE: Don't worry about personally being harmed by the mercury in a CFL should the bulb break. The mercury in a CFL is elemental mercury, not the methyl-mercury power plants generate and which can cause human health problems. In addition, the amount in the bulb is less than what would fit on the tip of a ballpoint pen. There's 1,000 times more mercury in your home thermostat than in a CFL. Far more mercury is generated by coal-fired power plants as they work to keep incandescent bulbs burning.

If the bulb does break, the Environmental Protection Agency advises consumers to open the windows in the room for 20 minutes and to sweep the pieces into a zip lock bag and seal it closed before putting it aside for proper disposal.


 

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