What to do with fluorescent light bulbs: You’ve got options!

If you are looking to dispose of just small Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs (the “spiral” or “twisty” CFL bulbs), The Home Depot and Lowes take them back in their stores.  

These other stores take also back CFLs, as well as tubular flourescents bulbs (up to 4 feet in length) anytime they are open. 

All fluorescent light bulbs can always be disposed of by making an appointment for our free Household Hazardous Waste collection program at www.rirrc.org/ecodepot, or by calling us 942-1430 x 241. 

Why do they need special disposal?

Fluorescent light bulbs, including Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs, do contain a small amount of mercury, and should not be disposed of in the regular trash.

Why use fluorescent light bulbs in the first place, if they contain mercury?

Mercury is released when coal is burned in power plants, and the tiny amount of mercury these bulbs contain (about 4 mg for CFLs) is far less than what would be produced to run an incandescent bulb instead of a CFL, over the course of the bulb’s life.* That being said, proper disposal of even this small amount is important.

*2005 National Emissions Inventory

If you break a Fluorescent light bulb

  • Leave the room and let it air out for 5-10 minutes (open windows if possible)
  • Shut off any central forced air heating/air-conditioning system
  • Scoop up fragments with a piece of cardboard
  • Use tape to get smaller fragments and a damp paper towel to wipe up any powder
  • Put everything in a sealable jar or plastic bag, and place the container in an outdoor trash can (the mercury has dissipated at this point, so it can go in the regular trash).

For more information visit: http://www.epa.gov/cfl/