Been reading repeatedly lately that the modern energy-efficient light bulbs the government has been forcing us to buy, do – while conserving energy – actually pose a hazard to our environment when they’re used/broken. Why? Because compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) and tubes contain small amounts of mercury (like the amount of ink on a ball point pen’s tip) and may contain other metals as well. Mercury is a toxic metal that can accumulate in your body and in the environment. When these CFL lights are broken, mercury releases into the environment. But as more and more people buy them for their homes, not enough sources are issuing loud warnings about how to recycle them.
DO NOT throw them in your regular glass recycling bin!
So, how should you recycle your used-up compact fluorescent lights and fluorescent tubes? In Illinois both CFLs and HID lamps (mercury-vapor, metal-halide and high-pressure sodium – used for streetlights, floodlights and industrial lighting) must by law be disposed of properly.
Where can you recycle a CFL in Chicago?
- Take used CFLs to the household chemicals and computer recycling facility located at 1150 N. North Branch.
- You can also take them to any Home Depot. Visit www.homedepot.com to find a store near you.
What should you do if a compact fluorescent light or fluorescent tube gets broken? BE CAREFUL, and follow the tips below (courtesy of the EPA website):
- Before Cleanup
– Have people and pets leave the room.
– Air out the room for 5-10 minutes by opening a window or door to the outdoor environment.
– Shut off the central forced air heating/air-conditioning system, if you have one.
– Collect materials needed to clean up broken bulb:
stiff paper or cardboard
damp paper towels or disposable wet wipes (for hard surfaces) and
a glass jar with a metal lid or a resealable plastic bag
- During Cleanup
– DO NOT VACUUM. Vacuuming is not recommended unless broken glass remains after all other cleanup steps have been taken. Vacuuming could spread mercury-containing powder or mercury vapor.
– Be thorough in collecting broken glass and visible powder. Scoop up glass fragments and powder using stiff paper or cardboard. Use sticky tape, such as duct tape, to pick up any remaining small glass fragments and powder. Place the used tape in the glass jar or plastic bag.
– See the detailed cleanup instructions for more information, and for differences in cleaning up hard surfaces versus carpeting or rugs.
– Place cleanup materials in a resealable container.
- After Cleanup
– Promptly place all bulb debris and cleanup materials, including vacuum cleaner bags, outdoors in a trash container or protected area until materials can be disposed of.
– Avoid leaving any bulb fragments or cleanup materials indoors.
– Next, check with your local government about disposal requirements in your area, because some localities require fluorescent bulbs (broken or unbroken) be taken to a local recycling center. If there is no such requirement in your area, you can dispose of the materials with your household trash.
If practical, continue to air out the room where the bulb was broken and leave the heating/air conditioning system shut off for several hours.
If you have further questions, please call your local poison control center at 1-800-222-1222.
For EPA guidance on which bulbs contain mercery, visit shttp://www.epa.gov/cfl/cleaning-broken-cfl
For additional EPA guidance on cleaning up, visit http://www.epa.gov/cfl/cleaning-broken-cfl#instruction