Do Not Sweep, Vacuum or Inhale

by Paul Chesser, Heartland Institute Correspondent on March 31, 2008

in Blog

Paul Chesser, Climate Strategies Watch

Not a whole lot of news on compact fluorescent bulbs, but the absolute impracticality of them is illustrated in a consumer advisory piece in yesterday's News & Observer of Raleigh. A sampling:

Because they contain trace elements of mercury, disposing of the lights or cleaning up a broken one is not a simple proposition…


Americans discard an estimated 670 million mercury-containing bulbs a year, potentially releasing as much as four tons of mercury into the environment each year….

Disposal options: Don't throw fluorescents in the trash. The light will break and release mercury. In a landfill, it could contaminate the ground. If you must throw a burned-out CFL into the trash, seal it first in two plastic bags to prevent leakage.

The preferred method is to take CFLs to a recycling facility or hazardous waste facility.

In the Triangle, you can take them to North Wake Household Hazardous Waste Collection off Durant Road in Raleigh or South Wake Solid Waste Management Facility off N.C. 55 in Apex….(both these locations are more than a half-hour from where I live)

Cleanup: If a CFL breaks, air out the room for at least 15 minutes. Shut off the central air conditioning or heating and close all doors so that mercury does not spread through the house.

Scoop up glass fragments and powder using stiff paper or cardboard and place them in a glass jar or sealed plastic bag. Use duct or other adhesive tape to clean up any remaining powder. Clean the area with damp paper towels and dispose of the towels in a jar or bag.

CFL don'ts: Do not use a vacuum cleaner: It will disperse the mercury particles. Never use a broom to clean up mercury. That also spreads mercury particles.

If the mercury gets on your clothes, seal the clothes in plastic and discard or take to a hazardous waste facility.

But besides all that, they're really worth it!

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