Eco Tutorial: Disposing CFL bulbs

Tutorial submitted by ecokaren

I changed all my incandescent bulbs to CFL bulbs when they first came out. Luckily, I haven’t broke any but I know they contain mercury, albeit, very little but wondered how to dispose of them if they break. The instruction says not to just throw them away with the regular trash but to a designated place in your area. But if they break, say, in your living room, is there a proper way to dispose of them? The answer is ‘Yes’. According to Heather at The Greenest Dollar, one of my favorite green blogs, you should follow these steps.

How To Safely Dispose of a Broken CFL Bulb

Step 1: Air Out the Room

Make sure everyone, including pets, leaves the room for 15 minutes. Open doors and windows to air everything out.
Make sure that no one walks through the area where the cfl bulb broke.
Shut off your heat/AC.
Step 2: Clean Up, For Hard Surfaces

Carefully scoop up glass using a piece of stiff cardboard. Put the pieces in a sealed glass jar (like a canning jar) or a sealed plastic bag.
Use a piece of duct tape to get the smaller glass fragments off the floor.
Wipe the area clean with wet paper towels or wet wipes. Place used towels in the glass jar or plastic bag.
Do not use a vacuum or broom to clean the area.

Step 2.1: Clean Up, For Carpeted Areas

Carefully pick up the broken cfl pieces and put them in a sealed jar or plastic bag.
Use duct tape to pick up the smaller fragments.
If vacuuming is needed, go for it.
Once you’re done vacuuming, remove the bag and place it in a sealed plastic bag for disposal.

Step 3: Disposing of the Broken CFL Bulb

Immediately place all cleanup materials outside in a trash bin.
Wash your hands thoroughly.
Check with your city on disposal. Some areas want the broken cfl (in its sealed container) thrown into the trash. Others will want you to take it to a recycling center or hazardous waste collection site for safe disposal.
Special Addendum: Clothing and Shoes

If clothing or bedding comes into contact with mercury, do not wash it. The mercury can contaminate the washing machine, and will get into the sewage system. The EPA recommends you throw everything away that you suspect came into contact with the broken CFL.
If shoes came into contact with the broken cfl bulb, wipe them down with a wet paper towel. Put the wet paper towels into the sealed plastic bag with your other cleanup items.

So, I hope you learned how to dispose of a CFL bulb before it happens and know what to do in case you break one. I hope you won’t but just in case…..