Compact Fluorescent Light Bulb Disposal

Compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) are the spiral coiled light bulbs becoming more popular with consumers for their efficient use of energy and longer-lasting alternative to the century old incandescent bulbs. An average incandescent bulb lasts about 800 to 1,500 hours; a CFL can last as long as 10,000 hours. Replacing an incandescent bulb with a CFL saves over 50% in energy usage, which results in the preventive release of billions of pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere from power plants each year according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

CFL light bulbs could actually hurt the environment if not properly disposed of when they burn out or break. Each CFL contains about 5 milligrams of mercury gas (barely enough to cover the tip of a pen), light is generated by heating the gas in the glass tube. The mercury in CFLs is safe when contained, but if a bulb should break or be disposed of improperly CFLs can become unsafe. It is highly recommended that the following steps take place:
Compact Fluorescent Bulb
If a CFL Bulb Breaks
Follow the process below from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency:
Vent the Room
  1. Open a window and leave the room for 15 minutes or more.
  2. Shut off the central forced-air heating / air conditioning system, if you have one.
Cleanup Steps for Hard Surfaces
  1. Carefully scoop up glass fragments and powder using stiff paper or cardboard and place them in a glass jar with metal lid (such as a canning jar) or in a sealed plastic bag.
  2. Use sticky tape, such as duct tape, to pick up any remaining small glass fragments and powder.
  3. Wipe the area clean with damp paper towels or disposable wet wipes and place them in the glass jar or plastic bag.
  4. Do not use a vacuum or broom to clean up the broken bulb on hard surfaces.
Cleanup Steps for Carpeting or Rug
  1. Carefully pick up glass fragments and place them in a glass jar with metal lid (such as a canning jar) or in a sealed plastic bag.
  2. Use sticky tape, such as duct tape, to pick up any remaining small glass fragments and powder.
  3. If vacuuming is needed after all visible materials are removed, vacuum the area where the bulb was broken.
  4. Remove the vacuum bag (or empty and wipe the canister), and put the bag or vacuum debris in a sealed plastic bag.
Disposal of Cleanup Materials
  1. Immediately place all cleanup materials outside the building in a trash container or outdoor protected area for the next normal trash.
  2. Wash your hands after disposing of the jars or plastic bags containing cleanup materials.
  3. Check with your local or state government about disposal requirements in your specific area. Some states prohibit such trash disposal and require that broken and unbroken lamps be taken to a recycling center.
Future Cleaning of Carpeting or Rug
  1. For at least the next few times you vacuum, shut off the central forced-air heating / air conditioning system and open a window prior to vacuuming.
  2. Keep the central heating / air conditioning system shut off and the window open for at least 15 minutes after vacuuming is completed.
If a CFL Bulb Burns Out
  1. Remove the burned out CFL and place it in a "zip-lock" type of plastic bag. Placing the CFL in a "zip-lock" bag will help contain pieces if accidentally broken.
  2. Businesses must recycle and residents are highly encouraged to recycle burned-out fluorescent fixtures. Recycle bulbs locally at the regional household hazardous waste facility in Naperville (website and map). Also, Ikea and Ace Hardware stores will dispose of CFLs, please call your local store for details and instructions.
  3. Install a new CFL and continue conserving energy and saving money.