Recycling CFLs

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Everybody has it happen now and then; a light bulb burns out in your home. What do you do? If you have a CFL bulb, you do not want to throw it in the trash. Instead, recycle it.

Why should we recycle our CFL bulbs? First, CFL bulbs have mercury in them. They often break when thrown away, and we do not want mercury in our environment. (If your state or local environmental regulatory agency permits you to put used or broken CFLs in the regular household trash, seal the bulb in two plastic bags and put it into the outside trash for the next normal trash collection. This will keep the mercury from entering the landfill.) Next, the other materials in the bulbs can be reused. The glass, the metals, and virtually everything else can be reused or recycled. Lastly, your area may require you to recycle them. There are many states and jurisdictions that have stricter regulations than the EPA. For example, California, Maine, New Hampshire, Minnesota, Vermont, and Massachusetts all prohibit mercury containing bulbs from being thrown away into the landfill.

How can we recycle CFLs? First, contact your local waste collection agency. Many cities have drop off locations. Some locations have curbside or other special collection programs. You can also visit That website allows you to put in your location, and then tells you where the closest waste collection agencies are and how to contact them. Waste collection agencies may collect a small fee to recycle your items, they sometimes collect household hazardous wastes once or twice a year (while others may collect throughout the year), and usually only accept waste from residents. That is why it is important that you contact them first before just showing up there.

Another great way to recycle your CFLs is to visit your local retailers. Ace Hardware, Home Depot, IKEA, Lowe's, Orchard Supply, and many other retailers offer in-store recycling. However, check with your local store before you go. Not all of the stores in the regional or nationwide chains may be equipped to recycle or they may only be able to accept certain items.

Many bulb manufacturers and other organizations have mail back services also. This means you are able to buy pre-labeled recycling kits that allow you to mail in your used bulbs to recycling centers. They are very easy to use too: you fill up the kit with your old bulbs, seal it, and put it with your regular mail (either leaving it for your local postal carrier or take it to your local post office). Waste Management, Veolia Environmental Services, AirCycle, and Heritage Lifecycle Mailback Services are all places that you can contact for more information on this option.

As you look around your home and in other facets in your life, it is easy to make both big and small changes that will help the environment. It can be as easy as buying organic clothes or recycling your used light bulbs!

Douglas Michaels Jr. writes educational articles for Go Green|Green Earth News, the authority on everything Bamboo. For more information on Uncommon Reuses. Check out Green Earth Bamboo for bamboo sheets, organic women's clothng, duvet covers, towels and baby products, all made from the world's most sustainable and renewable resource on the planet.

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