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The Why and How of Compact Florescent Light Bulb Recycling

20 January 2012

Once your compact florescent light (CFL) bulb has served its energy saving duty- it does have to be recycled. WHY? CFLs have  a small amount of mercury in them – 4mg or 1/5 the amount in a typical watch battery. When you throw a CFL away it will break and release the mercury. You can prevent this mercury being released into the air by recycling the bulb! It is also the law in Minnesota to recycle them. When a CFL is recycled all parts are separated including the glass and mercury which can be reused (source).


Despite the mercury in CFLs, using them actually helps decrease the amount of mercury released into the air by power plants.  After all, CFLs require 1/4 of the electricity of traditional incandescent light bulbs – and they last 7-10 times longer. To power that incandescent bulb, a power plant will release up to 10 mg of mercury into the air – almost 5 times more than a CFL!. (Minnesota Pollution Control).

So where do you recycle CFLs? Most hardware stores and retailers such as Menards, Lowes, Home Depot, and IKEA will recycle your CFL for free. I recycled one for free this weekend at my local ACE hardware! Here is a list of small retailers in Minnesota that recycle CFLs.


Picture source: Science Blogs

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