It never fails…there always seems to be at least ONE of the 126 can lights in my house that burns out every week (ok, maybe a slight exaggeration). I have been replacing each burned out incandescent bulb with a new, energy-efficient CFL bulb for the last year or more. So out comes the ladder again today. I asked my young daughter to bring me the new box of CFL bulbs from the basement. Well, as luck would have it, she accidentally dropped the box and one of the bulbs shattered. Luckily the box was closed and no glass went anywhere. But the accident did get me thinking… is there something special I am supposed to do with a broken CFL bulb? Don’t they have mercury in them? They don’t just go in the trash, right?
I looked on the box of bulbs for direction. While it didn’t address broken bulbs specifically, the package DID say that burnt out CFL bulbs should be recycled and NOT thrown away. Well that was news to me! I went to the EPA website it recommended for more insight: www.epa.gov/bulbrecycling.
Since CFL bulbs contain a very small amount of mercury (less than 1/100th of the amount in a mercury thermometer), there are some precautions that should be taken when a bulb is broken, and the site had step-by-step instructions on what to do. I also found out that a number of large retailers will take burnt out CFL bulb and recycle them for you. You can drop your bulbs off at chains like Home Dept, Lowes, Ace Hardware and even Ikea!
Armed with this new information, I will start collecting any burnt out CFL bulbs in the box with my broken one and plan to recycle them. Of course my broken bulb may have a long time to wait since these new bulbs last so much longer than the “old” ones!