Broken CFLs: CFL Bulb Disposal and Recycling
Updated December 2018
Oh no! You have a broken CFL bulb and don’t know what to do. Do broken fluorescent bulbs get recycled? Why can’t you just clean it up and throw it away? Don’t worry, we can answer any and all questions about proper CFL bulb disposal!
Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs (CFLs) are commonly used in light fixtures because they’re more energy efficient than the older incandescent bulbs. However, CFLs contain mercury, which can be both harmful to the environment and to personal health. This means it’s important to dispose of them properly. You can’t just throw them in your trash at home! Many places in the San Francisco Bay Area accept intact light bulbs for recycling, including most hardware stores. The bigger problem is what to do with them when they’re broken or shattered, as most local drop off locations can’t accept broken CFLs.
What to Do with Broken CFL Bulbs?
So, what to do when a CFL breaks? First, clean up! Here are some guidelines for broken CFLs suggested by the EPA:
- Have everyone, including pets, leave the room.
- Air out the room for 5-10 minutes.
- Shut off any air conditioning or central air system.
- Collect all bulb fragments and powder using stiff paper or cardboard, sticky tape, and wet towels. Do not vacuum!
- Put all used cleaning materials and CFL pieces in a sealed container and keep outside in a garbage bin or container until it’s time to safely dispose of them.
Where to dispose of the pieces once you’ve cleaned them up depends on your location. So to help everyone in the Bay Area who is wondering where to take broken CFLs, you can scroll down to your county below and find out!
All of the following information is for county residents, not businesses. In some counties, businesses can drop off broken light bulbs for a fee, but in others, they would need to hire a private hazardous waste contractor. Most household hazardous waste facilities’ websites say that they accept light bulbs. However, they don’t specify if broken ones are ok, so we called to confirm with each county.
Where Should You Go For CFL Bulb Disposal in the San Francisco Bay Area?
There are 4 hazardous waste drop off locations in Alameda county, and they all accept broken or shattered CFLs. To save time, you can fill out their form beforehand. You must be an Alameda County resident to recycle at these facilities.
- Oakland Facility– 2100 East 7th St., Oakland
- Hayward Facility – 2091 West Winton Avenue, Hayward
- Livermore Facility – 5584 La Ribera Street, Livermore
- Fremont Facility – 41149 Boyce Road, Fremont
Contra Costa County
There are 3 hazardous waste drop off sites in Contra Costa County. Residents in the county can only drop off material at their specified site, and have to have proof of residency.
- West Costa County Facility – 101 Pittsburg Ave., Richmond
For residents of: Crockett, El Cerrito, El Sobrante, Hercules, Kensington, Montalvin Manor, North Richmond, Pinole, Port Costa, Richmond, Rodeo San Pablo, Tara Hills, Tormey and other unincorporated areas in West County only.
- Central Costa County Facility – 4797 Imhoff Pl., Martinez, CA 94553
For residents of: Alamo, Blackhawk, Clayton, Concord, Clyde, Danville, Lafayette, Martinez, Moraga, Orinda, Pacheco, Pleasant Hill, San Ramon, Walnut Creek and other unincorporated areas in Central County only.
- Delta (East) Contra Costa Facility – 2550 Pittsburg-Antioch Hwy, Antioch, CA 94509
For residents of: Antioch, Bay Point, Bethel Island, Brentwood, Byron, Discovery Bay, Knightsen, Oakley, Pittsburg and other unincorporated areas in East County only.
Marin County offers free hazardous waste recycling to county residents (excluding Novato). The drop-off center is located at 565 Jacoby Street in San Rafael, CA 94901 and is open Tuesday-Saturday 8am-3:30pm. No appointment needed, but proof of residency is required. Questions? Call 415-485-6806.
Napa County’s household hazardous waste facility is located at 889-A Devlin Road in Napa. It accepts broken CFLs from Napa residents, and no appointment is needed. This facility is open Fridays and Saturdays from 9am-4pm and their phone number is 707-259-8608.
Santa Clara County
For Santa Clara County residents, broken CFLs can be dropped off at drive-through collection sites in San Jose, San Martin, or Sunnyvale. If broken, the bulbs need to be in sealed bags or containers, and appointments are required. To make an appointment you can call (408) 299-7300.
San Francisco County
Residents of San Francisco have two options to recycle broken CFLs. The county does offer a pickup program for hazardous waste, including broken CFLs. However, if the only thing you’re having them pick up is a single bulb, that’s a waste of a trip for them. So San Franciscans can also drop off broken CFLs at the dump, located at 501 Tunnel Road, on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays between 8am and 4pm. Questions? Call (415) 330-1405.
San Mateo County
San Mateo County residents may recycle broken CFLs in San Mateo at drop-off events held Thursday-Saturday and in South San Francisco on the first Saturday of every month. The county door-to-door recycling program is only for light bulbs that are intact. So if you have a broken or shattered CFL, you’ll need to make an appointment. Appointments can be made by calling 650-363-4718 or visiting the county’s website.
For Solano county residents, there is one drop-off location at the Fairfield Facility at 2901 Industrial Ct., Fairfield, CA 94533 that accepts broken CFLs. Appointments are necessary and can be made by calling 707-439-2800.
Sonoma County operates the Household Toxics Facility for county residents to dispose of household hazardous waste, including broken CFLs. Proof of residency is required, but no appointment is needed. The site is located at 500 Mecham Rd., Petaluma and is open Thursday, Friday & Saturday, from 7:30 am-2:30 pm.
While CFL bulbs are great for saving energy, they become a problem when broken. It’s important that you know where to go for safe CFL bulb disposal in the Bay Area. Whether they’re broken or not, you’ve got plenty of options!
Want to know more about CFL bulb disposal and recycling? You can call us at (650) 493-8700 or chat with us online!
Written by Laura West.
James Kao is the founder/CEO of GreenCitizen, which provides products and services that help make every day Earth Day. He’s passionate about data and sustainability, with a deep background in launching, funding, and managing successful tech companies. James enjoys spending quality time with his family, hiking, traveling, watching well-made documentaries, and eating good healthy food. read more »