During winter, we spend more time inside and rely more on indoor lighting. By the end of winter, you may find yourself with one or two dead light bulbs and wonder how to dispose of them safely.
In Washington, all mercury-containing lights must be recycled. Many people use compact fluorescent light bulbs, or CFLs, in their home, and they contain mercury. CFLs are safe to handle and use, but when they are broken, the mercury vaporizes into room-temperature air. Mercury can impair neurological development in children and infants, and is toxic to adults.
Just because they contain mercury does not mean you need to rid your home of working CFL bulbs. CFLs use 25 percent to 80 percent less energy and can last as long as 10,000 hours, according to the Department of Energy. However, when you replace CFLs, LED lights are a great alternative and have a typical life span of 15-25 years.
If you break a CFL bulb, you can clean it up safely by following these steps:
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▪ Do not use a vacuum or broom to sweep up broken fragments because that can spread the fragments. Open windows to vent the released mercury vapors and leave the area for at least 15 minutes.
▪ Next, use stiff paper or cardboard to scoop up large pieces. If there are any small pieces or powder left behind, use duct tape to pick it up.
▪ Then, wipe the area clean with a damp paper towel. Put the broken pieces in a sealed container, preferably made of glass with a good lid. Immediately remove the container from the home and wash your hands thoroughly.
So where do you take broken or dead CFL bulbs? The Light Recycle program will accept as many as 10 mercury-containing lights per day per customer for free. In Thurston County you can drop them off at one of four recycling locations:
▪ HazoHouse, located at the Thurston County Waste and Recovery Center, 2420 Hogum Bay Road NE, Olympia.
▪ Olympia Ace Hardware in the Capitol Village Shopping Center, 400 Cooper Point Road SW, Olympia.
▪ Lincoln Creek Lumber/Ace Hardware, 2421 93rd Ave. SW, Tumwater.
▪ Batteries Plus Bulbs, 2905 Capital Mall Drive SW, Olympia.
In Lewis County, you can drop off bulbs at Lewis County Solid Waste in Centralia. Or find more regional recycling locations by going to Light Recycle’s website at lightrecycle.org. Light Recycle is one of a family of recycling programs by PCA Product Stewardship Inc., a nonprofit industry association.
While the small amount of mercury in a single bulb may seem insignificant, doing your part by recycling fluorescent lighting can reduce the amount of mercury exposure in our homes, communities and environment, collectively making a significant impact.
Reach Dr. Rachel C. Wood, health officer for Thurston and Lewis counties, at 360-867-2501, firstname.lastname@example.org.