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CFL disposal release

March 11, 2009
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Bloomington, IN — Between 2001 and 2007, production of compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) — which use up to 75 percent less electricity than standard incandescent bulbs — tripled from approximately 750 million units to more than 2.5 billion units, according to Worldwatch Institute, an independent research organization encouraging the evolution of a more ecologically sustainable society.
These bulbs, which also last up to 10 times longer than a standard light bulb, have become increasingly popular as their price tag has been reduced.
CFLs are now used extensively in schools, homes, hotels, offices and other facilities.
However, some users and environmentalists have concerns about CFLs because mercury, which allows the bulb to be an efficient light source, is a key component. Users should know that no mercury is released from the bulb as long it stays intact or in use.
If the CFL breaks, Stephen Ashkin, president of The Ashkin Group, a leading Green cleaning consultant and Founder and Executive Director of the Green Cleaning Network, says there is still minimal danger along as it is just one bulb. However some clean-up precautions are called for.
Among Ashkin’s precautionary suggestions are the following:
  • Open the nearest window and leave the room for about 15 minutes
  • Do not use a vacuum to pick up the glass fragments; this could send mercury airborne. Instead, wear gloves and with a piece of cardboard, scoop up the fragments and discard in a sealed container, such as a glass jar
  • Use sticky tape to pick up smaller fragments and powder; place used tape in the jar as well
  • Wipe the area clean with a damp cloth
  • Take the clean up materials and sealed container to a CFL recycling center.

Once the area is clear of CFL debris, it can be vacuumed. However, Ashkin advises, vacuum bags should be replaced after vacuuming the area. Used vacuum bags should be placed in a sealed bag and then disposed of in a trash can.
CFLs should be recycled at the end of their lifespan.
Several major retailers, such as Home Depot, Ace Hardware and others, provide recycling services for CFLs. For more information, please visit www.earth911.org for the locations of local disposal facilities.
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