Compact Fluorescent Bulbs
More and more Americans are saving on energy bills by using CFL bulbs instead of incandescents. But what should you do with the bulbs after they burn out?
CFL bulbs contain small amounts of mercury. If the CFL bulb breaks before it's properly recycled, people can be exposed to this harmful metal.
Some states, cities and counties have outlawed putting CFL bulbs in the trash.
A spokesperson for the Environmental Protection Agency says that even though fluorescent bulbs contain mercury, using them contributes less mercury to the environment than using regular incandescent bulbs. That's because they use less electricity - and coal-fired power plants are the biggest source of mercury emissions in the air.
According to the federal government, if every American home replaced just one light bulb with an Energy Star-approved CFL, the United States would save enough energy to light more than 2.5 million homes for a year and prevent greenhouse gases equivalent to the emissions of nearly 800,000 cars.
Recycling programs at the stores that sell CFLs are still relatively uncommon, although that is gradually changing. The EPA is working with CFL manufacturers and major retailers to expand recycling and disposal options.
To recycle your CFLs, contact your municipal solid waste agency directly or visit ThinkGreenFromHome.com.