How to Recycle CFLs
While CFLs are more energy efficient, they do contain a small amount of mercury, meaning they should be handled with care and disposed of properly. Many cities accept them at a household hazardous waste (HHW) facilities.
Frequent CFL Recycling Questions
Even if a CFL happens to break in your home, remember that most of the mercury content is bound to the bulb and is therefore harmless. On average, total mercury emissions from a broken CFL are only about 1.4 milligrams. That said, any level of mercury exposure carries potential health concerns, but due to the small amount of mercury and short duration of exposure, a broken CFL is not likely to present any significant risk to you or your family.
If you are concerned about using these bulbs due to mercury content, consider opting for a shatter-resistant CFL, which has a coating on the outside that greatly reduces the risk of breakage. Although a bit more expensive, LEDs are extremely durable and do not contain mercury, so you can also go with those as an alternative lighting solution.
If you’ve broken a CFL in the past and did not follow these instructions, the EPA assures you, “Don’t be alarmed, these steps are only precautions that reflect best practices for cleaning up a broken CFL.” Make note of these instructions in case you ever break a bulb again, but don’t stress about exposure from a prior cleanup.
Keep in mind that poorly designed CFLs may burn out before their time. So, remember to look for the Energy Star certification to ensure top quality.
If you’re ready to make the up-front investment, LEDs can save you more than $70 in energy costs over the lifetime of the product, and you can expect the bulb to last 25,000 hours – about 22 years, based on three hours of use per day.