What to do with a Broken Light Bulb
Once your light bulbs burn out, we recommend you keep them safe from breakage in a cardboard sleeve or box prior to bringing them to one of our centers, or local recycling drop off spot. You can find out where to take your intact light bulbs using Earth911.com No mercury is released from lamps until they are broken. However, when they do break, the toxins are released into the environment. Because of this GreenCitizen cannot accept broken bulbs. If one of your lamps does break, leave the area immediately to avoid any dust created and allow vapors to dissipate for 5-10 minutes. When you return, don a pair of gloves and scoop up all the lamp fragments. (Do not use a vacuum cleaner!) Place this material in a sealed container, and wash your hands. Finally, take the container to a hazardous waste disposal facility. For more information, check out the EPA’s broken CFL instruction page.
Why Recycle Light Bulbs
At GreenCitizen, we recently started accepting light bulbs for recycling. Of course, recycling light bulbs is important. For one thing, the glass, metals, and other materials in light bulbs can be reused. Also, Halogen, compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs,) linear fluorescent, and high intensity discharge (HID) lamps contain trace amounts of mercury. In fact, these items have been prohibited from landfills in California and ten other states. Though many people think of incandescent bulbs as trash, they actually contain lead at levels that exceed hazardous waste limits.
Why Do We Use Bulbs Containing Mercury?
CFLs are significantly more sustainable than incandescent light bulbs, but they contain mercury. How can this be? CFLs are far more energy efficient and the mercury they contain is essential to this efficiency. Saving energy lowers the demand for electricity, and this leads to less coal burning in power plants. Mercury is found naturally in coal, and is released into the environment in large amounts through power plants. Using CFLs reduces mercury emission from factories enough that the small amount in the lamps themselves (4mg/CFL) is better for the environment.