Do CFLs contain mercury?
Yes. CFLs contain a small amount (4 to 5 thousandths of a gram) of mercury. They and many other mercury-containing items such as regular fluorescent lights, thermometers, and thermostats should be turned in to a recycling facility so the mercury can be reclaimed and reused.
What is the environmental impact of CFL bulbs?
Using compact fluorescent lighting instead of regular incandescent lights has a positive environmental impact. Because the CFLs are more efficient than regular bulbs, they reduce the amount of fossil fuels burned at power plants that generate electricity.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, a power plant emits 10 milligrams of mercury to produce the electricity to power an incandescent bulb. It takes 2.4 milligrams to light a CFL for the same amount of time. So converting to CFLs will reduce emissions of mercury, a neurotoxin, as well as other pollutants such as carbon dioxide, the most prevalent global warming gas and sulfur dioxide that contributes to acid rain.
How long do CFLs last?
CFLs are not a disposable item like regular lights. They have a 10,000-hour life expectancy if they are used 3 hours per day; they should last nearly 10 years.
Are there any health risks associated with having CFLs in my home?
The small amount of mercury contained in a bulb is highly unlikely to pose any detrimental effects if it should accidentally break. If this happens, scoop the pieces and powder into a sealable plastic container, air out the room, wipe the area with a damp sponge, and take all of the materials to a household hazardous waste collection center.
What is the proper way to dispose of a CFL?
CFLs cannot be thrown in the trash, they must be recycled. At the end of its long life (typically 5 to 10 years), a CFL should be taken to a participating location in Maine’s Help ME Recycle program.
If your town is not listed below, please call your town office for information. As of January 1, 2005, all Maine towns are required to recycle mercury-added products, including CFLs from households. Each town has several options to fulfill this obligation. It can:
- Collect them at the local transfer station or recycling center;
- Join a regional facility for recycling and direct citizens to that facility;
- Hold a periodic one-day collection, perhaps a few times a year; or
- Direct citizens to a nearby private business that manages mercury-added products.
Many retail stores collect used, unbroken CFLs. Find a store near you.
If you break a CFL, it is important to remember these four steps:
1. Ventilate the room for 15 minutes with an open window. (Close the door and leave the room if possible.)
2. Do not vacuum.
3. Use rubber gloves and paper towels to pick up the pieces and put the pieces, gloves and paper towels into a glass jar with a tight-fitting metal lid (e.g. peanut butter jar)
4. Bring the broken bulb to a municipal collection site (List of sites: www.maine.gov/dep/rwm/homeowner/fluorescent.htm)
For more detailed information, visit the DEP website (Revised clean-up guidance: www.maine.gov/dep/rwm/homeowner/fluorescent.htm). You may also call the Maine Department of Environmental Protection directly at (207) 287-2651.
Source: Efficiency Maine