Although CFLs have many environmental benefits, they do contain a small amount of mercury, and so need to be disposed of properly. But what does one actually do?
CFLs contain up to 5 milligrams of mercury, which is quite a small amount; compare that to older home thermostats and mercury fever thermometers, which contain from 500 to 3,000 milligrams. But given that nearly 300 million CFLs were sold in the U.S. in 2007, according to the Wall Street Journal, it can still be a concern. In several states tossing CFLs in the trash is even illegal.
Take them to your community's hazardous waste collection site. If you don't know where that is, call town hall, or look up waste management or public works departments in the phone book. Sometimes you can drop off items at a location anytime, while in other communities there are designated days when they accept waste.
Or, if that's not convenient or an option, go with Sylvania's RECYCLEPAK program. Order a consumer pak on Sylvania's website ($15, including shipping), fill up with about 12 burned-out bulbs, attach the prepaid shipping label, and your retired CFLs will be responsibly recycled. Larger sizes and community packs also available.
Disposing of used CFLs might seem like a bit of a pain, especially if you have to pay, but note that the recycling cost amounts to just about 1% of the total amount of money you'll spend on a bulb in its lifetime, since energy use is the lion's share. Also note that if you do have a broken bulb, don't handle it with bare hands. Pick up the fragments with a paper towel, seal in a plastic bag, and take to a recycling center. Ventilate the room thoroughly to push out any mercury vapor.
View 10 great new CFLs to fit any fixture, and lifestyle, here.
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