postheadericon CFL Recycling

You probably now know that CFL’s are preferable to incandescent light bulbs. They emit less mercury during production, they use less energy and they last longer. However, even if you have switched every light bulb in your home to a CFL, it is necessary to consider the environmental implications of production and disposal. CFL’s do contain trace amounts of mercury and they still use some energy, so how can we ensure that we are using them to their fullest potential?

Although CFL’s contain a relatively small amount of mercury, it is still important to ensure that this toxic liquid does not seep from our landfills into our waterways and land areas. Luckily, recycling resources provide us with plenty of opportunities to prevent this from happening. Programs, like RecycleABulb.com, offer locators to find the closest CFL recyclers. Larger hardware and home goods retailers will also sometimes offer on-site CFL recycling.

All of these recycling programs use Bulb Eaters, machines that swallow CFL light bulbs and extract the mercury out. The mercury travels through a three stage filter within the Bulb Eater. The first two filters remove dust particulates, while final last carbon filter converts the mercury vapor into a non-toxic mercuric sulfide. The leftover aluminum and glass are then recycled to make other products, such as concrete and fiberglass.

Another way to prevent mercury pollution is to consider amalgam-based CFL’s. Such CFL’s contain a mixture of mercury and other metals, like copper and tin. It results in a less-toxic, solid form of mercury, meaning that no excess liquid mercury will lead to water pollution. Amalgam-based CFL’s also work better in a wider range of temperatures. While typical CFL’s are at 50% light capacity at 0°C, amalgam-based CFL’s reach full light output at temperatures ranging from -17°C to 65°C. Green Irene offers several light bulbs with amalgam mercury: the TorpedoPar 38 Floodlight and R30 Reflector bulbs, which are part of Green Irene’s wider range of energy efficient lighting products.

Changing over to CFL’s and recycling them properly can have a profound effect not only on your utility bill, but on you and the environment’s overall health. As opposed to incandescent light bulbs, CFL’s provide efficient and environmentally friendly lighting that will keep you going back to buy more… after you’ve recycled the old ones, that is.
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In Hawaii, Home Depot and Lowes accept used or broken CFLs for recycling.  Place used bulb in a plastic bag and take to any Home Depot or Lowes store.

Waste Management, the nation’s largest waste and recycling company, has a recycling kit for CFLs.  Mail-in recycling kits for CFL can be purchased, filled with expired CFLs and placed in the mail. The website Think Green From Home explains step-by-step how to recycle CFLs, and will even provide you with a confirmation of recycling via e-mail.  Each CFL Recycling Kit is priced at $16.95, and can hold up to 15 CFLs. The kits come complete with a re-sealableVaporLok bag and a prepaid reutrn shipping label.

For more information on mercury and CFL disposal, go to www.energystar.gov

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