Recycling Compact Florescent Light Bulb Tips

Compact fluorescent light bulbs, often referred to as CFLs, were produced to replace the energy consuming incandescent light bulbs.  The compact fluorescent bulbs have a much longer more energy efficient life span than the incandescent bulbs.  (Even more energy efficient than the CFL units are the newer LED bulbs)

When you purchased the incandescent light bulb you chose the number of watts you needed for the light you desired.  Watts measures the amount of energy used by the bulb.  Lumens measures the brightness provided by the bulbs.  The higher the lumens the brighter the bulb.  In order to replace an incandescent light bulb with a CFL of the same light output you want to choose a CFL that has one fourth the wattage of the incandescent bulb.  For example, to replace a 100-watt incandescent bulb you want to choose a 25 watt CFL. 

What is the average lifespan of a atypical CFL bulb?  According to lighting experts the average lifespan of a CFL unit is between 8 and 15 times longer than an incandescent bulb.  Incandescent lighting units generally have life spans of from 750 to 1,000 hours.  CFL units have an average life span of 8,000 hours. CFLs have a higher purchase price than the incandescent light, but since they last so much longer the CFLs are cheaper to use.

The effect of CFLs on the environment.  While the compact fluorescent lamps have a longer life span and save money on the electric bills these products do contain mercury.  CFLs and other fluorescent lamps usually have small amounts of mercury within the glass tubing which is used as vapor.  For this reason, the disposal of fluorescent lamps is a complex one.

CFL units may contain as little as 1 mg or less or mercury or as much as 3 to 5 mg of mercury.  Mercury is a highly toxic material and therefore its disposal in landfills or incinerators poses a major health safety issue.  Either burning or burying CFLs in the ground contributes to air and water pollution.  The US Environmental Protection Agency estimates that if all CFLs produced in the United States were dumped in landfills it would amount to 0.13 metric tons or 0.1% of all mercury emissions in the United States.

The National Electrical Manufacturers Association the United States has voluntarily capped the amount of mercury placed in each CFL unit.  The European Union has also required lighting manufacturers to cap their CFL mercury content.

Here are some tips and precautions for handling, disposal or recycling of compact fluorescent lamps:

Find out if your town or city has drop off centers where mercury containing items are accepted.  Check out your state or city recycling regulations regarding the disposal and handling of materials containing toxic materials.  These regulations are different in different states.  Place the CFL bulb in two plastic bags so that it’s mercury content won’t seep out if the bulb gets broken.  Check to see if there is a retailer in your area that accepts trade-in of old CFL bulbs.  Some retailers have major recycling programs for CFLs, however, they may charge you a small fee for disposal of your old CFL.  Be sure to check the regulations in your area before disposing of CFL bulbs in your weekly trash