Environmental Defense Fund: Easy Recycling of Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs

CFL light bulbCompact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) use 75 percent less electricity than incandescent light bulbs for the same amount of light. (For why, see Bill’s post “Why Switch to Compact Fluorescents“.) But some people fear CFLs because of the tiny amount of mercury they contain. The risk from a broken CFL is extremely small, but CFLs should be disposed of properly so landfills aren’t polluted. Sealing used bulbs in plastic bags before placing them in the trash can slow the release of mercury if the bulb breaks. But recycling is ideal.

The problem, until now, has been that recycling CFLs was inconvenient for post people. That’s about to change, thanks to Home Depot. The New York Times reported this week that Home Depot will offer CFL recycling at all of its nearly 2000 U.S. stores. That puts 75 percent of Americans within 10 miles of a CFL recycling location.

If you’re not part of that 75 percent, you still have options. Ikea stores provide CFL recycling bins, as well. Or visit Earth 911 or Lamp Recycle to look for a recycling location near you.

Need help choosing the right CFL? Visit our online guide, “How to Pick a Better Bulb“.

  1. Caroline Savery

    Obviously, a 75% reduction in energy use is a big deal. However, please do not downplay the importance of reducing and eliminating all commercial and residential uses of mercury whatsoever.

    When interviewing Kathy Lawson, director of the Healthy Children Project at the Learning Disabilities Association of America for a documentary two years ago, I still recall this exact quote. “[Since the early 1990s,] Learning disabilities have increased 161% and continue to increase annually. …Children today are being born with cord blood levels of mercury higher than what their mom has. We’re not supposed to have mercury in our bodies at all. These children are being born with mercury, and mercury is a known neuro-toxicant. So there is a direct connection right there.”

    I also want to note that the rates of autism in children in the U.S. has increased to one child for every 166 children. That’s an astronomical amount, and may have something to do with chemical contamination too.

    Plastic bags might slow the leaching of mercury into our biosystems, but it’s awfully urgent that we *prevent* its presence altogether. To me, it’s not a “green” option if it reduces human energy consumption but poses a threat to all life forms.

  2. Martha Cecilia Ramirez Suarez

    Buenos días señores:
    Tengo una hermana que utiliza un implante coclear; en dias pasados descubrimos que este tipo de bombillas le hacen interferencia en el implante a punto de desprogramarlo y además le ocasiona dolor en el oido cuando activan el encendido de estas bombillas en cualquier sitio donde las usen.
    Para su casa y oficina ya se soluciono y se estan utilizando otro tipo de lamparas. La SOLICITUD para los ingenieros responsables de investigar los elementos utilizados para el desarrollo de la producción de estas bombillas tengan en cuenta y hagan la OBSERVACIÓN para su utilización.
    Martha Cecilia Ramírez Súarez

    Editor’s note: I translated Matha’s comment via Google Translate:

    Good morning gentlemen
    I have a sister who uses a cochlear implant, in days past we found that this type of bulbs do you interfere with the implant plus un point will cause pain in the ear when you activate the power of these bulbs anywhere you use them.
    For home and office and was solved and are using another type of lamps. APPLICATION for engineers responsible for investigating the factors used to develop the production of these bulbs are considered and made the remark as to its use.
    Thank you.
    Martha Cecilia Ramirez Suarez

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