CFL bulbs use up to 75% less energy than regular or incandescent light bulbs. In fact, if every home in America replaced a regular light bulb with a CFL bulb, it would save enough energy to light over 3 million homes and prevent 800,000 cars worth of greenhouse gas emissions.
A CFL bulb contains an average of 4 milligrams of mercury sealed within the glass tubing. While this mercury is essential to the efficiency of a CFL bulb, it can be harmful to the environment if the bulb is damaged or broken. The EPA estimates that approximately 11% of this mercury is released into the air or water when a light bulb ends up in a landfill.
Mercury is a natural element found in our environment. Its emissions released into the air can come naturally or by man-made sources. Coal-fired power plants account for 51% of emissions in the U.S. as the mercury within the coal is released when it is burned. Using a CFL bulb helps to reduce the power demand and lessen the mercury emissions from power plants.
When a CFL bulb breaks, some of the mercury is released into the air as vapor. Before you clean up the broken pieces, have everyone including pets leave the room. Air the room out for 5-10 minutes and shut off any central heating or air conditioning system that may be running. Be very thorough in gathering the broken glass and visible powder and then place the cleanup materials in a seal-able container. Quickly place the debris and cleanup materials outside in a protected area until they can be disposed of properly. Continue to air out the room for several hours and leave the central air system off.
FAQs about CFL Bulbs
Let our store expert Rick K. answer a few frequently asked questions on how to dispose of CFL bulbs the proper way:
Question: What should I do with my old CFL bulbs and tubes?
Answer: Go to a recycling center near you because of the mercury content.
Question: Why are CFL bulbs lamps banned from the landfill?
Answer: CFL bulbs are banned from the landfill so mercury content doesn’t flow into our water systems.
Question: How are mercury containing CFL bulbs (lamps) regulated?
Answer: Every state has its own regulations on disposal. Check your local area for information on the proper way to dispose of mercury containing CFL bulbs.
Question: What are the proper recycling / disposal procedures under the universal waste rule?
Answer: Put them in a double bag, tape the top and dispose of them in a trash container.
Question: When does a mercury containing CFL bulb become waste?
Answer: When the lamp is burnt out or broken.