Any plans for a national CFL disposal or recycling program?


Q. I notice you've been covering CFL's a lot on your blog lately, and seem to feel that the mercury contained in them is negligible. But the government is poised to get rid of fluorescent bulbs by 2012, so I'm wondering if there's a plan in place yet to dispose of all the new CFL's we'll be adding into the waste stream? Will there be lightbulb recycling laws put in place? – Lucia, MT

A. Unfortunately, Congress hasn't yet taken this important issue onto its plate. EPA's Roxanne Smith says that there are currently no discussions taking place regarding a national light bulb recycling law. So while the agency does “encourage” people to recycle their CFLs, it’s really up to each individual state (and each conscientious recycler like yourself) to insure that CFLs don’t end up mixed in with the rest of the trash. And some states (California and Massachusetts included) have already stepped up to the plate, implementing stringent laws that require CFL-users to take their bulbs to household hazardous waste collection or recycling facilities.

No matter where you live, though, there are plenty of options for proper bulb disposal. Start by going to lamprecycle.org to find out your state’s recycling regulations and contacts. And to see what household hazardous waste programs and drop-off sites are nearby, check out EPA’s regional CFL-recycling locator. The Earth 911 Web site also has an easy-to-use CFL recycling facility locator, and IKEA and Home Depot both now offer free CFL take-back programs (you can even return bulbs bought elsewhere to their stores). And finally, if you still haven't found a drop-off center near you, Smith recommends sealing the bulb in two plastic bags before putting it in the trash. But don’t reach for the ziplocks too fast: Bagging those bulbs should be your very, very, very last resort.

-         Jessica A. Knoblauch

Eco-inquiries, conundrums, snafus? Write to askplenty@plentymag.com.  

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