CFL Disposal Information

Compact Flourescent Light Bulbs, or CFLs as they are more commonly called, contain a trace amount of mercury. Like all products containing mercury, including the flourescent tubes that have been in use for years, it is improtant that CFLs be handled with care and disposed of in a safe and proper manner. For proper clean up and disposal, follow these guidelines as provided by the U.S. Department of Environmental Protection (www.epa.gov):

WHEN A CFL BREAKS:

  • Open nearby windows to disperse any vapor.
  • Sweep up the fragments and wipe the area with a damp disposable towel to remove all glass fragments.
    1. Do not use your hands
    2. Do not use a vacuum
  • Place all fragments in a plastic bag, seal it and follow the proper disposal instructions, as discribed below.

HOW TO PROPERLY DISPOSE OF CFLs:

Although CFLs are not "hazardous waste" according to federal guidelines, it is important for the environment that they be disposed of in a responsible manner. Bulbs should not be thrown out with regular trash. Instead, place CFLs in plastic bags, and place in one of the CFL Disposal kiosks available within your town (contact your town hall to find out locations). For Norwich locations the following are available for disposal:

  • NPU Customer Service Center, 173 North Main Street
  • Norwich Senior Center, Mahan Drive
  • Norwich City Hall, 100 Broadway
  • Otis Library, Main Street
  • Public Works Facility, Clinton Avenue
  • Norwich Transfer Station located on Rogers Road (telephone 823-3796). There is no charge to drop off bulbs. They can also be disposed of at Norwich's annual Household Hazardous Waste Collection Day. 

 

The following mercury facts were provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA):

HOW MUCH MERCURY IS CONTAINED IN A CFL?

Mercury is an essential element contained in all flourescent light bulbs. This includes the newer compact flourescent lights (CFLs) and the standard flourescent tubes that have been around for years.

According to the U.S. EPA, the amount of mercury contained in an average CFL is about 4mg. To put this in perspective with respect to other household products that contain mercury, a household thermometer contains about 500mg of mercury and an older (non-digital) wall thermostat contains about 3000mg.

HOW ARE CFLs BETTER FOR THE ENVIRONMENT?

Even though CFLs contain a trace amount of mercury, they are actually beneficial for preventing mercury from entering the air we breathe and causing health problems.

How?

When common fossil fuels like oil and coal are burned to produce electricity, they emit a large amount of mercury into the atmosphere. A power plant discharges 10mg of mercury when producing enough electricity to power one incandescent bulb. Because a CFL uses up to 75% less energy than an incandescent bulb, the same power plant only discharges 2.4mg of mercury when producing the electricity to power the CFL for the same amount of time. So, even when you add the amount of mercury contained in the CFL, there is still an environmental benefit in using CFLs. And, unlike the gasses emitted from the power plants, the mercury contained in CFLs can be recaptured through recycling. (source: U.S. EPA, June 2002) 


 

 

For more information about the health risks of mercury in flourescent lights and CFLs, visit the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's website at www.epa.gov or the Energy Star website at www.energystar.gov.