Monday, February 11, 2008

Disposing of CFL fluorescent light bulbs

I've been a big proponent of conserving energy around the house, and have written about it several times on this blog. One of the easiest energy "fixes" is to switch your light bulbs to Compact Flourescent Bulbs, since they are ultra efficient and last for a very long time. The bulbs say right on the packaging that they contain mercury, but that it's safely contained within the bulb and will not cause any harm (much like a thermometer). However, that leaves two new questions unanswered – What to do if one breaks, and what to do with them when they eventually burn out?



What to do if a CFL Bulb breaks?

The frightening thing is how few people know the right answer. The NBC affiliate in Chicago did a survey recently, calling various stores and governmental agencies, and their answers varied greatly. According to the EPA's website, the correct response is:




  1. Open a window and leave the room for 15 minutes or more.

  2. DO NOT VACUUM.

  3. On a hard surface, carefully scoop up the fragments and powder with stiff paper or cardboard and place them in a sealed plastic bag. (wear gloves or other protective gear – no bare hands.) Then wipe the area with a damp cloth or wet-wipe, and place it in the plastic bag as well.

  4. On a carpeted area, pick up the larger materials (no bare hands), then use a sticky surface like duct tape to pick up the smaller pieces and the powder. Place everything into a sealed plastic bag.

  5. Seal the plastic bag, and seal that bag inside a second plastic bag. Then you may properly dispose of it.

  6. Now you can vacuum, but you'll want to throw out the vacuum bag, or empty and wipe out the container (for a bagless vacuum), and dispose of those contents in the same manner.


How to properly dispose of a CFL bulb?

This is where it gets tricky, and the EPA's website isn't very helpful edited April 2010 to add that EPA now has a Fact Sheet on CFL bulbs' use and disposal, and what to do if one breaks. You can see it <here>. There's a second Fact Sheet produced by the EnergyStar folks which you can view <here>.




  1. I can't find any Arizona laws against throwing them away with your regular trash, and Peoria's website does NOT list CFL Bulbs in their list of Household Hazardous Waste. Yet, filling the landfills with millions of lightbulbs containing mercury can't be a good thing, so I'd like to recycle them.

  2. Click <here> for a list of places listed as recycle centers.

  3. Edited Sept 2008 to add that Home Depot now recycles the CFL bulbs for you. Take them back there, hand 'em in.


Your hoping not to break a bulb Realtor,

Chris Butterworth

[tags] CLF Bulbs, recycling, compact fluorescent light bulbs, Fletcher Heights [/tags]