These days, everyone is talking about Compact Fluorescent Lightbulbs (CFLs) as the best way to save energy when it comes to lighting. They last far longer and use electricity more efficiently than conventional incandescent bulbs because they do not produce wasted energy as heat as a by-product. The thing that many people do not know however, is that CFL bulbs contain a tiny amount of mercury – roughly four milligrams (by comparison, a watch battery can contain up to 25 milligrams of mercury.)
Hence, when a compact fluorescent bulb has reached the end of its long life, you should take it to a hazardous-waste disposal facility (like the eco-centre) rather than dumping it in the trash (IKEA also collects old CFLs). While toxic, even that mercury can be recycled. There is a local company that collects the mercury from the old CFL bulbs in order to produce paint. Mercury is something they would have had to purchase anyway, so reusing the mercury from the CFLs is a good example of reusing a substance and redirecting it away from the landfill! For more information on their program, check out http://www.recycfluo.ca.
Please note: If you should ever break a CFL bulb in your home, there are some recommended precautions to take in order to avoid contact with the small amount of mercury contained within:
– open the windows and ventilate the room;
– leave the room for about 20 minutes;
– when you return, clean up the mess with a non-reusable cloth/ paper towel and plastic gloves;
– put the broken bulb, the rag and the gloves into a plastic bag and seal it;
– bring the bag to the eco-centre for proper disposal.