Disposal of Compact Fluorescent Bulbs
CFL bulbs contain an extremely small amount of mercury; about 1/100 the amount in a common household thermometer.
The primary source of mercury emissions in the U.S. is coal-fired power plants. An unbroken CFL does not pose a health risk. However, expended CFL's should be disposed of properly, in the same manor as other household hazardous waste products like paint, batteries and non-digital thermostats. The concern is valid and lies in concentrations of mercury accumulating in our landfills over time.
Compact fluorescent bulbs emit no mercury unless they are broken.
NOTE: A coal power plant powering an incandescent light bulb instead of a CFL will release more mercury into the air than is actually contained in a CFL itself. Although the CFL mercury issue is a concern, the net result of mercury released into our environment, given the reduced power requirements of a compact fluorescent bulb over its lifetime, remains less.
Many municipalities offer programs for safe collection of hazardous household waste.
Never incinerate a compact fluorescent light bulb as means of disposal.
What should I do if a compact fluorescent bulb breaks in my home?
- Do not inhale the vapor.
- Do not use a vacuum for cleanup.
- Sweep the pieces together with a brush or broom -- not with your hand.
- Cleanup glass with a wet rag or towel and place the towel, along with the pieces, into a sealed plastic bag.
Dispose of expended or broken CFL's at your local Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) Collection Site.
If your local HHW Collection Site does not accept CFLs, check with local authorities. Many CFL retail outlets also offer safe disposal or recycling.
Find information on your local HHW site at: earth911.org.