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Energy Efficiency

How to: Recycling energy-efficient light bulbs

cflIf you’ve upgraded your home’s old-fashioned light bulbs to compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) and light-emitting diode bulbs (LEDs), you already know you’re saving energy and money, reducing emissions from power plants, and minimizing waste. However, you may be discovering that you need to recycle these new light bulbs differently—you can’t just throw them in the trash.

While CFLs can last up to seven years and LEDs as long as 23 years (learn more about choosing the right light for your life), you’ll eventually need to know how to dispose of them properly.

CFLs

Today, CFLs are in over 70 percent of U.S. homes. But because they contain a small amount of mercury, disposal can be a little tricky.

CFLs are perfectly safe as long as they stay intact. However, if you toss them in the garbage, they’ll probably break before they even reach the landfill, immediately jeopardizing the health of waste management workers and eventually poisoning nearby land or water sources.

When your CFL’s time is up, it’s essential that you find an Environmental Protection Agency-approved CFL recycling site. If a CFL breaks in your home, follow these steps:

  1. Put on protective clothing, gloves, and a mask to shield yourself from the dust.
  2. Collect all the broken bits into an airtight container using a damp paper towel.
  3. Turn off all central air and fans for 15 minutes.
  4. Take the light bulb to a recycling site.

LEDs

You don’t have to worry about mercury with LEDs, but they do contain nickel, some lead, and even trace amounts of arsenic. When used properly, these lights are risk-free, but they have significant health hazards when they’re left in a landfill.

More than 95 percent of an LED bulb is recyclable; simply call your local waste management company to learn its policies for collecting and recycling. The recycling process will separate the glass from the other elements, all of which will eventually be recycled and reused.

Since CFLs and LEDs are so efficient (you can thank a 2007 law that went into effect earlier this year), you won’t really have to think about disposing of them very often. But you will think about the money you’re saving every time you open your electricity bill.

Annie Josey is a blogger for Pegasus Lighting, a nationally recognized lighting retailer committed to helping every customer have a sustainable lighting experience—from first spark to last light.

If you’ve upgraded your home’s old-fashioned light bulbs to compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) and light-emitting diode bulbs (LEDs), you already know you’re saving energy and money, reducing emissions from power plants, and minimizing waste. However, you may be discovering that you need to recycle these new light bulbs differently—you can’t just throw them in the trash.

Add a comment 1 comment

  1. Carol

    10.18.2012

    It’s been my experience ( & that of many other people that I know) that most CFLs bought in discount stores like Lowes, Menards, Home Depot, etc, etc, etc and which do have well known brand labels on them – ARE NOT ENERGY EFFICIENT!

    Who are you all trying to fool???

    Many of these types of CFLs just last a matter of days, weeks or months, perhaps a year or two, if lucky. I’ve had old incandescent light bulbs last longer than that!!! Considering the amount that needs to be purchased to keep up with how often they go out, not only are these less efficient, but more hazardous to the environment, if not recycled properly

    However, when better (not mainstream) brands are purchased at independently owned special “Alternative Energy” stores, the CFLs actually do live up to their reputation – I had one of these last 15 years. However, these better quality bulbs cost 4 times more than the ones purchased at the typical “Home Improvement” Stores (mentioned above). Which stores do you think most American consumers shop at?

    I think there should be some truth in the promotion of these things!!!