Unfortunately, they don’t last forever. They always seems to fail at the most inopportune time, too. You’re searching in your closet for that perfect pair of shoes, or you just walked in the door after a long day at the office, and no matter how many times you flip the switch on and off you remain in darkness - telling you your light bulb has finally burned out. Do you just throw the CFL bulb out with the rest of your garbage? As we’ll find out that’s probably not the best idea.
CFLs are a great way to save money on energy costs and help the environment. A great way to make sure they continue to help the environment is to know the proper way to recycle them once they’ve burned out.
A lot more households ( and businesses) are switching from regular incandescent light bulbs to more energy efficient CFLs. Like we mentioned earlier, they use less energy, which means greenhouse gas emissions go down resulting in your energy bill at home or your business also decreasing, and who doesn’t like to save money?
However, CFLs and other fluorescent light bulbs should be treated with care when they burn out. Unlike regular incandescent bulbs, you shouldn’t throw out CFLs with your regular weekly trash pick up (side note: you shouldn’t actually recycle incandescent light bulbs because of the glass that they are made of.)
CFLs and other fluorescent light bulbs contain a small amount of mercury, which can be harmful to the environment if they end up in a landfill. The Environmental Protection Agency actually recommends recycling CFLs to prevent mercury from getting out into the environment.
The EPA also suggests contacting your local community solid waste agency to see if they have opportunities to recycle light bulbs. That way you won’t have to worry about the bulbs breaking in the recycling bin every week. Some communities require recycling light bulbs, so it’s also good to check to be sure there isn’t a ban on throwing out old light bulbs.
Besides preventing mercury from leaking into the environment, recycling your old light bulbs helps make new light bulbs. Nearly all the material used to make CFLs, glass, metal, etc., can be reused to make new light bulbs. Most recycling centers will take old light bulbs, and you can log onto search.earth911.com to find out where the nearest recycling center is located.
So remember the next time you flip the switch and hear that familiar “pop” of the light bulb finally expiring, you can continue to help out the environment and your costs down by making sure those bulbs get recycled and reused.