Recycling CFL Light Bulbs
CFL (compact fluorescent) light bulbs are perfect bulbs for your home. They're better for the planet, and will save money on your electricity bill. Whilst these bulbs are a great invention, they require some careful handling and recycling to make sure the small amount of mercury is properly handled and does not contaminate the environment.
CFL recycling may be covered by your state's laws. Most CFLs can be recycled at recycling centers, but there are other places, like some grocery stores, or certain ALA-certified lighting stores, that allow you to drop off your burnt out CFLs as well.CFL bulbs take a long time to burn out (they typically last 7 years or longer), but when they do they should be properly handled and care taken not to break the bulb before disposing it of at the recycling center.
Don't throw CFL bulbs away in the trash, even in protective wrapping, as incinerating the bulbs is hazardous to the environment, and many disposal centers incinerate the garbage. It is much easier and safer to find a place to drop off your used bulbs than to risk inflicting that on the environment.
When handling CFL bulbs, there is a chance the bulb will break, releasing the mercury gas. The EPA has released guidelines on what to do if that event occurs. While the small amount of mercury gas isn't dangerous unless inhaled, these guidelines should be followed anyway just in case.
First, a window should be opened, or a fan turned on, and you should leave the room for about fifteen minutes to allow the gas to dissipate. While wearing rubber gloves, or taking care that your bare hands stay out of the way, you should carefully scoop up the fragments or powder with a stiff piece of cardboard, and place the fragments, the cardboard, and the gloves in a sealed plastic bag. The area where the break occurred should be wiped clean with paper towels or wet wipes, those then placed in the same plastic bag. Vacuums and brooms should not be used to clean up the area under any circumstances.
Once the area has been cleaned up and all clean up materials placed in a plastic bag, that plastic bag should be placed inside a second plastic bag. That bag should be placed in an outdoor trash bag or another outdoor protected area, until the next trash disposal. Keep in mind that some states do not allow you to place broken light bulbs or broken lamps in the trash, and they must be taken to a recycling center. After disposing of the bag, your hands should be washed.If the bulb breaks on the carpet, then you should be doubly careful. You need to remove all the broken pieces without using a vacuum cleaner, using the same steps as above. Very sticky tape, like duct tape, can be used to pick up small pieces and powder. If you must vacuum to pick up the extra pieces after following those steps, then vacuum only in the area where the bulb was broken, remove the vacuum bag and wipe down the canister, and place the bag in two sealed plastic bags and place it in the outdoor trash can or another outdoor place for disposal. When you follow these guidelines, you can breathe easier again.