Fluorescent Bulb Recycling

several shapes of fluorescent light bulbs

Fluorescent Bulb Recycling Program

[Also below: How to Clean Up a Broken Fluorescent bulb]

Fluorescent light bulbs, including CFLs (compact fluorescent lightbulbs), should never be thrown in the trash because they contain mercury vapor. All fluorescent lamps (light bulbs) should be disposed of in accordance with state laws. As of May 1, 2008 the MA DEP’s Mercury Management Act “prohibits any person, household, business, school, healthcare facility or state or municipal government from knowingly disposing of a mercury-added product.” Straight fluorescent lamps with a “green-cap” claim to have low mercury content, but these lamps should also be recycled under the new mercury management law.

The good news is that it is easier than ever to dispose of fluorescent light bulbs. Proper disposal is now available at all transfer stations and some town halls within the District. Transfer stations in Bernardston, Buckland, Charlemont, Colrain, Conway, Deerfield, Heath, Montague, New Salem, Northfield, Orange, Rowe, Shelburne, Warwick, Wendell, and Whately now host fluorescent lamp recycling programs for their residents. Residents of Deerfield, Hawley and Sunderland may now recycle fluorescent lamps at their town halls. The Town of Greenfield accepts fluorescents from Greenfield residents at the Greenfield transfer station. Small fees (.50 – 1.00) for recycling vary from town to town. Check with your town or transfer station for pricing. Expired, unbroken CFLs may also be brought to any Home Depot store (returns desk), any Aubuchon Hardware store, or the Greenfield Solar Store for recycling. The stores do not charge for this service.

Fluorescent light bulbs, or lamps, come in many shapes and sizes. Energy-saving compact fluorescents are now available in the traditional light bulb dome shape as well as twin tubes and the spiral twist bulb. Some other types of fluorescent bulbs are circular (circline) lamps, U-tubes, and straight lamps, which can be found in any length from two to eight feet.

Exercise caution when handling these bulbs, because if they break, the mercury vapor in the bulb is released and can be harmful to your health. If you do break a fluorescent bulb of any kind, you should open a window to ventilate the room, and then leave the room for 10-15 minutes to allow the mercury vapor to dissipate. On returning to the room, use index cards or cardboard and duct tape to clean up the broken bulb. Do not use a vacuum, which may redistribute fine particles around the room. If you notice a white powder, this is phosphorous. Place the broken glass and all residue in a plastit bag and bring to your town transfer station or call the District at 413-772-2438.

You may be wondering if CFLs are worth the extra effort. According to the EPA, Energy Star qualified CFLs, as compared to incandescent bulbs, use about one-quarter of the energy to produce the same amount of light, and last up to 10 times longer. This energy conservation can translate into $30 in electricity savings over each bulb’s lifetime. Since CFLs save energy, less energy is drawn from coal-burning power plants. As coal is burned, power plants emit mercury, which pollutes rivers and lakes and makes fish unsafe to eat. By reducing energy use, CFLs actually save mercury from being emitted by coal fired power plants. Fluorescent lamps do not release mercury unless they are broken.

District residents may still bring fluorescent lamps to the District’s Regional Household Hazardous Waste Sites. These “Super Sites” are located at the transfer stations in Bernardston, Colrain, and Conway.