Recycling Compact Fluorescent Bulbs

One objection to compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) that people often raise is the problem of disposing of them safely due to the mercury they contain. Mercury is a toxin that is particularly dangerous to the developing brains of children (and babies in utero) and is suspected of posing a heart risk to adults. The amount in CFLs is quite small and is sealed off in any case, but could pose some risk if bulbs are broken when disposed of. As a result, many towns have special facilities where used bulbs can be dropped off, but it’s extra trouble to locate the facilities and bring the bulbs there, and many people don’t want to bother.

I was therefore delighted to learn that you can now recycle CFLs at any Home Depot store. It doesn’t matter what the brand is or where you bought it as long as the bulb is intact. Home Depot says recycling is handled responsibly by an environmental management company to “maximize safety and ensure environmental compliance.”

CFLs last years before expiring so this isn’t a problem you face often, but it’s helpful to know one easy place to go when you do.

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4 Responses to Recycling Compact Fluorescent Bulbs

  1. Demetrius December 31, 2011 at 4:48 am #

    Baloney! CFLs are the next environmental “iceberg”! You’re post on CFLs concludes with “CFLs last years before expiring so this isn’t a problem you face often, but it’s helpful to know one easy place to go when you do.” Now, the main assumption you make is that CFLs last for years! Yes, ONLY if you leave them on constantly, since they fail quite early if they are turned on and off regularly as with an incandesant bulb would be in the same sevice. If people throw CFLs in the regular trash waste stream ( as 95% ) of consumers do, before long, our ecosystem will be teaming with unacceptable levels of mercury! Stay with incadesants and save our ecosytem and potable water suppy!

    • Demetrius December 31, 2011 at 4:51 am #

      If you moderate my comment, then please don’t publish!

      • Sheryl December 31, 2011 at 1:49 pm #

        Manners, manners, Demetrius.

    • Sheryl December 31, 2011 at 1:47 pm #

      Power plants are the largest source of mercury pollution. By using compact fluorescent bulbs and saving energy you reduce mercury pollution more than you add to it even if you throw the CFLs out when they fail. So if your concern is reducing mercury in the environment, the answer is to use CFLs — or even better, LEDs, which are more expensive but last even longer and contain no mercury at all. See the math in this piece by Popular Mechanics:
      http://www.popularmechanics.com/home/reviews/news/4217864. And check out this page on sources of mercury pollution in general from NRDC: http://www.nrdc.org/health/effects/mercury/sources.asp.

      As to the bulbs’ life span — shutting lights on and off will shorten any bulb’s life, including an incandescent bulb’s, though the effect is greater with CFLs. That does not mean that turning the light on and off frequently, as in several times a day, will cause it to “fail quite early,” as you suggest. It just means the bulb won’t last as long as it otherwise would have.

      CFLs last many times longer than incandescent bulbs. This is true even in light of recent reports that CFLs do not last as long as we’ve been led to expect, according to Consumer Reports: http://news.consumerreports.org/appliances/2011/01/pge-california-utility-claims-cfls-burning-out-faster-than-expected.html.

      Of course, quality varies between brands (and individual bulbs) with CFLs, as with all things. If you’ve had a bad experience with bulbs burning out early, I suggest you check reviews before purchasing one again.