One thing not often discussed is that the compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs that have become popular for their energy saving prowess are also not easily disposed of when they finally require replacement.  These bulbs contain a small amount of mercury and just throwing them into the trash is not a good option.

The EPA says that you can throw them into the landfill if you put them into two sealed, plastic bags (one inside the other) – such as a pair of zipper bags, or sandwich bags.  This has a downside: not only are you throwing the CFL bulb into the landfill, but you’re adding two plastic bags to the mix.  That doesn’t solve anything other than to keep the mercury from bleeding into the ground.

Luckily, there are better options.

Many cities and counties offer CFL recycling.  Some have collection at the curb, but more often, you are required to take the bulbs to a specific location to turn them in.  Many people keep a box or sack in the garage to put old bulbs in and then take them in when they have several to drop off at once.  This is a good solution if you have no other options.

Some retailers (though not many yet) offer recycling as well.  Ikea and Home Depot are notable for this.  Whether you bought the bulbs from them or not, you can take them to most store locations and they’ll accept them for recycling.

Another option is Earth 911 (earth911.org), which is a database of recycling locations around North America.  Simply put in your postal code or city and search for “CFL” or “fluorescent bulbs” in the Find a Recycling Center field at the top.  If there’s a recycling location near you, it will likely be in the Earth 911 database.

Finally, if all else fails, there are commercial companies that specialize in CFL recycling.  They usually send you a container to ship them in, for a fee, and then safely recycle them once received.  If no other option is available of if you prefer convenience over cost, then this may be a good choice.

Whatever you do, there’s no excuse for throwing your CFLs into the garbage bin and polluting our environment.