Compact Fluorescent (CFL) light bulbs, also sometimes knows as Energy Efficient Light Bulbs, use up to 75% less energy and last up to 10 times longer than incandescent bulbs. However, since CFLs contain a small amount of mercury, they should not be thrown in the trash or in your regular recycling bin.

In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency recommends that consumers look for local options for recycling CFLs, and all other household hazardous wastes. In addition to CFLs, some fluorescent lights include:

  • Linear, u-tube and circular fluorescent bulbs
  • Bug zappers
  • Tanning bed bulbs
  • Black lights
  • Neon tubes

It’s important to recycle CFL bulbs and other fluorescent bulbs properly to prevent mercury from being released into the environment. When processed correctly, the mercury can be expertly removed, and the glass, metals and other materials can be properly recycled.

Many local municipalities offer separate hazardous waste recycling programs that include collection of non-working CFL bulbs, other hazardous household waste and electronic recycling programs. Check your city’s waste management website page to identify the types of materials they accept and where they can be deposited. Many Home Depot and Lowe’s stores also offer recycling of CFLs. Locate the store nearest you and inquire about their CFL recycling policy.

It is important to remember that when recycling CFL bulbs, they need to be intact (not broken). If a CFL bulb breaks open, the mercury will leak out quickly, so don’t rush to clean up a shattered bulb to keep yourself protected from mercury exposure.

If you do break a bulb, and your municipality allows it, the EPA recommends sealing the bulb and its pieces in a plastic bag and putting it in an outdoor trash container for regular garbage pickup.