Home & Garden

Tips for tossing your burned-out fluorescent bulbs

Fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) use a quarter of the energy of standard light bulbs and can last for years before needing to be replaced.

But what do you do with a CFL when it stops producing light?

CFLs contain a small amount of mercury. Simply tossing them in the trash isn't a good solution because they usually break, which allows the mercury to escape into the environment.

Earlier this year, a Department of Ecology study revealed that 20 percent of fluorescent bulbs and lamps were properly recycled.

"That's 8 out of 10 lamps that end up in Dumpsters and landfills where the mercury can be released into the environment. We can do better," said Department of Ecology Directory Jay Manning in a news release.

"I want us to get to 100 percent recycling by 2015," he said.

Home Depot has become the largest retailer in the United States to launch a Compact Fluorescent Light Bulb recycling program. Almost 2,000 stores, including the Richland and Kennewick stores, are accepting any type of CFL for recycling without charge.

For transport, wrap the CFL in newspaper and place it in a bag or box. Drop it off at the Returns Desk or Customer Service Counter of your Home Depot.

But why go to this trouble when a regular incandescent bulb produces plenty of light and -- when they blow out -- can go into the trash without becoming an environmental hazard?

Because CFLs are extremely energy efficient.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, sales of the spiral "curly bulbs" are booming. CFL lights represented 20 percent of the market in 2007, up from 11 percent in 2006.

If every American replaced one light bulb with a fluorescent bulb, it would save enough energy to light more than 3 million homes for a year, more than $600 million in annual energy costs and prevent greenhouse gas emissions equal to more than 800,000 cars, Manning said.

For more information on the recycling program go to Home Depot Info at www6.homedepot.com/ecooptions, or the Ecology Press Release at www.ecy.wa.gov/ news/2008 news/2008-101.html.

* Loretto J. Hulse: 582-1513; lhulse@tricityherald.com.