Recycle Right: CFLs Contain Mercury

The Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection is offering tips for recycling CFLs — compact fluorescent lightbulbs:

“Do you know what type of lightbulbs you have in your light fixtures? This could be the difference between saving dollars and cents in your home.

“If you have incandescent lightbulbs – the ones that have a filament and are hot to the touch – you are most likely spending too much money on illuminating your home. With traditional incandescent light bulbs, a whopping 80% of that electricity is lost as heat – only 20% produces light. That’s the equivalent of burning your money.

“Keep that money in your pocket and switch to light-emitting diodes (LED) lightbulbs – they use at least 75% less energy, and last 25 times longer, than incandescent light bulbs and Montgomery Energy Connection provides free lightbulb exchanges throughout the County for you to swap your light bulbs at no cost.

“But wait, you upgraded to compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs a few years ago because those are more efficient. Should you switch to LEDs?

“If you have CFL bulbs – you may be saving some money on your electricity bill, but CFLs can become hazardous waste when they burn out, and you might be disposing of them incorrectly.

“While CFLs use one-third of the electricity – and last up to 10 times longer – than incandescent light bulbs, they should not be thrown into the trash. Nationwide, more than 670 million mercury-containing bulbs are improperly discarded each year. In Montgomery County, CFLs that are improperly thrown into the trash are often mixed with other waste and incinerated. The disposal method can lead to a release of mercury into the environment through breakage and leakage, and ultimately, contaminate the environment and food chain.

“Make sure you are disposing of these bulbs properly. Visit DEP’s Recycle Right page to find out where to recycle CFL bulbs safely.

“Switch to LED bulbs – While there may be a slight upfront cost to purchasing LEDs, they last significantly longer than other light bulbs, for approximately 50,000 hours. If used for 8 hours a day, an LED bulb could last more than 17 years! The good news is that you don’t even have to purchase these – you can swap out your old incandescent and CFL bulbs for LEDs at a Montgomery Energy Connection sponsored event, or you can call your electricity utility to schedule a Quick Home Energy Checkup, and they will replace up to 14 bulbs for you at no additional cost.

“Keep those dollars, quarters, and pennies in your pocket by recycling your CFLs and switching to LEDs today.”

Photo: “CFL Bulb” by AZAdam is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

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