Monday, October 6, 2008

How to recycle those CFL bulbs

I just noticed the CFL bulb on our front porch has burned out. Not only is it time to replace it, it’s also time for me to finally figure out what the heck to do with the expired bulbs that I’ve been collecting over the past year.

I’m sure you are well versed in why CFL bulbs are a better choice for our environment and energy conservation but not many people know that they need to be disposed of properly. Each bulb contains a trace amount of mercury, which has been proven to cause kidney and brain damage. So it’s critical that we dispose of these bulbs properly and keep that mercury out of our landfills.

It’s not only a healthy decision; it’s a lawful decision in some states. Did you know that it’s illegal to throw away CFL bulbs in California, Minnesota, Ohio, Illinois, and Indiana?

There are several options for disposing of your CFL bulbs properly:

1. Stores like IKEA and Home Depot are now accepting expired and unbroken CFL bulbs. Simply take your bulbs into the store and give them to the person at the returns desk.

2. Visit Earth911 to find a recycling center near you. They have a cool search box at the top of their site where you can enter what you want to recycle (CFL bulbs, batteries, paint, etc.) and your location. They will give you a list of options in your area.

3. Check with the bulb’s manufacturer. Many companies now offer a free mail-back program. Just call the phone number listed on your bulb to see what kind of recycling programs they offer.

4. Contact your local waste management company to see if they accept hazardous waste materials.

When you are ready to recycle your used CFL bulbs, take the following steps to ensure your safety and a cleaner environment:

1. Place the old bulbs in the packaging from your new bulbs to prevent breakage. If these aren’t available, wrap your bulbs in newspaper or plastic shopping bags to cushion them and prevent them from breaking.

2. Store your old bulbs together in a box until you have time to take them to the recycling center.

3. Mark your calendar for hazardous waste recycling. Some areas only accept hazardous waste once or twice a year. Don’t miss out! Check now and save the date so you aren’t stuck with a box of hazardous waste for another year.

4. If a CFL bulb does break while storing or transporting it, follow these important clean-up steps from the EPA.