EPA Cracks Down on Improper CFL Disposal

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Large corporations including CBS and Macy’s Inc. have been just a few of the groups penalized as the EPA and state environmental agencies crack down on improper disposal of mercury-containing compact fluorescent lamps (CFL). In addition to imposing fines for violators, the companies are required to provide public education.

Many states have banned CFLs from landfills due to the mercury content. Photo: Yourwindycityguide.com

Many states have banned CFLs from landfills due to the mercury content. Photo: Yourwindycityguide.com

In the case of CBS, the New York Department of Environmental Conservation required the network to air a public service announcement on the Late Show With David Letterman’s Web site. The PSA discusses the benefits of CFLs as well as proper disposal techniques.


CFLs have received endorsement from the EPA and Department of Energy for their longer life and energy efficiency. But each bulb contains as much as 5 milligrams of mercury, which has already led nine different states to ban them from landfills.

The bulbs are accepted for recycling at Home Depot and IKEA locations and are often included as part of community household hazardous waste collection programs. Furthermore, at least one bulb manufacturer is offering a mail-in recycling kit as part of the original packaging.

“There is adequate recycling capacity and a network of lamp and mercury recyclers across the country that can help large and small generators set up a compliant recycling program,” says Paul Abernathy of the Association of Lighting and Mercury Recyclers.

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Trey Granger

Trey Granger is a former senior waste stream analyst for Earth911.
Trey Granger

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Comments

  1. We’re encouraged to use only CFL lighting but they are considered hazardous waste and you must take them to a specific waste processor – which I’m sure very few folks do. So what is one to do???

  2. CFL lighting and regular fluorescent lighting is more energy efficient when compared to its incandescent counterpart however it does contain a highly toxic chemical that affects the health and wellbeing of everyone. While some may take part and recycle the CFL lightbulbs they use, the majority of the population does not. This is either because they don’t want to take the time, they don’t know the severity of this issue, and/or they don’t know where to take them for recycling.

    An alternative that I think should be used instead of CFL lighting is LED lighting. While this technology is relatively new it does not require the use of the toxic chemical mercury regular fluorescent and CFL lightsbulbs require. The LED technology is as efficient if not more than fluorescent lighting. The LED lighting is already being used in some flat-screen televisions and computer screens. Using this technology would greatly improve how we dispose of this kind of waste.

  3. I use both LED and CFL lights in my home. The LED bulbs are not as bright as they could be. They have to get better. I was concerned about mercury in the CFL lights so looked up a number of things about them. What if you break a CFL bulb in your home? This is the worst case scenario assuming you do not cut yourself with the bulb. The room is small and there is no (zero) ventilation. You will be breathing vapors with mercury. How much will you get (worst case)? About the same amount as you would be getting if you eat one can of tuna. That is not too bad. You should note that it is now recommended that pregnant women do not eat any tuna while pregnant of if trying to get pregnant. Mercury is a real problem, but I do not know how much and it is hard to get through all the hype and fear to find the real truth(s).

  4. Pingback: The Real Dirt on LED Lighting

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