How to Dispose of Long-Life Light Bulbs

Written by lyle berg
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How to Dispose of Long-Life Light Bulbs
CFLs contain mercury. (Compact fluorescent light bulb image by K. Geijer from

According to the Energy Star organisation, if all the homes in America replaced just one incandescent light bulb with an Energy Star-rated compact fluorescent light bulb (CFL), enough energy would be saved to light 3 million homes every year, reduce greenhouse gasses by 9 billion pounds and save £390 billion in energy bills each year. The downside is CFLs contain mercury and extreme caution must be used in their disposal.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Internet connection
  • 2 plastic bags
  • Adhesive tape

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  1. 1

    Use the Internet to contact your State Environmental Agency for regulations regarding the proper disposal of CFLs. In addition to instructions about the disposal of CFLs, many states include information about recycling in general (see Resources).

  2. 2

    Contact your local refuse hauler and ask if they accept CFLs for recycling or to learn their policy for disposal of CFLs. Most refuse disposal companies have websites that can be accessed from a city's or county's home page.

  3. 3

    Watch for hazardous waste disposal opportunities your city or county may provide. Many cities and counties provide free hazardous waste disposal at selected sites once to several times a year.

  4. 4

    Search the Internet for commercial light bulb recycling businesses such as This is usually the most expensive recycling option and should be the last option considered.

  5. 5

    Dispose of CFLs, if your state or local agencies have no regulations pertaining to their disposal, by putting them in two plastic bags. Carefully seal the bags with adhesive tape before putting them in the refuse container. Under no circumstances should CFLs be incinerated, as Incineration releases mercury into the environment. Try to find the nearest facility that will dispose of them without burning.

Tips and warnings

  • Fluorescent long-life light bulbs yield the most benefit in lamps that are on more than 2 hours a day.
  • Save the incandescent bulbs you replace for lamps that will not accept a CFL.
  • Use extreme caution when cleaning up broken CFLs. The mercury they contain is a hazardous material. See Resources for a link to instructions for proper handling and disposal.

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