Safe Use and Proper Disposal of CFLs

CFLs contain a very small amount of mercury, about 5 milligrams (mg). This is roughly the amount that it would take to cover the tip of a ballpoint pen. By comparison, older thermometers contain about 500 mg of mercury and an older thermostat can contain around 3000 mg.

Over its' lifetime, mercury emission caused by a CFL is lower than an incandescent bulb. This is because the largest source of mercury emissions in the U.S. comes from coal-fired power plants that produce electricity, and an incandescent bulb uses up to four times as much electricity than a CFL.

Safely handling CFLs and properly disposing of used or broken ones will ensure that the mercury contained in them will not be released into the environment.

Safe Handling

  • Store new, unused CFLs in the store packaging or a box to prevent breakage before use.
  • Always screw and unscrew the bulb from the base (not the glass).
  • Never forcefully twist the CFL into a light socket.

If a CFL Breaks

The EPA recommends the following steps to clean up a broken CFL or fluorescent bulb:

  • Open a window and leave the room for 15 minutes or more.
  • If possible, close the door(s) that lead into the room.
  • Carefully scoop up the fragments and powder with stiff paper or cardboard and place them in a sealed plastic bag.
  • Using diposable rubber gloves (do not use bare hands), Wipe the area clean with damp paper towels or disposable wet wipes and place them in the plastic bag.
  • Place the first bag in a second sealed plastic bag and put it in the outdoor trash container or in another outdoor protected area for the next normal trash disposal.
  • Wash your hands after disposing of the bag.
  • Do not use a vacuum or broom to clean up the broken bulb on hard surfaces.

If a fluorescent bulb breaks on a rug or carpet:

  • First, remove all materials you can without using a vacuum cleaner, following the steps above. Sticky tape (such as duct tape) can be used to pick up small pieces and powder.
  • If vacuuming is needed after all visible materials are removed, vacuum the area, remove the vacuum bag (or empty and wipe the canister) and put the bag or vacuum debris in two sealed plastic bags in the outdoor trash or protected outdoor location for normal disposal.

The EPA is continually reviewing its clean-up and disposal recommendations for CFLs. Reveiw their recommendations. 

Recycling your CFL is easy! 

Just like batteries, telephones, TVs, computers, and cell phones, CFLs need to be recycled.

Albuquerque / Bernalillo County
Albuquerque-ACT
(Advanced Chemical Transport)
6137 Edith Blvd. NE
Open to residents of Albuquerque or Bernalillo County: M-W-F 8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.; Sat. 8 a.m. - 3 p.m.
Call (505) 349-5220 for more information.

City of Rio Rancho
Rio Rancho residents may recycle CFLs in Albuquerque at ACT (Advanced Chemical Transport)
6137 Edith Blvd. NE
M-W-F 8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.; Sat. 8 a.m. - 3 p.m.
Bring proof of Rio Rancho residency.
Call (505) 349-5220 for more information.

Lincoln County
Ruidoso Downs
Greentree Solid Waste Authority
26590 US Hwy 70
Call (877) 548-8772 or (575) 378-4697 for more information.

Santa Fe City and County
Buckman Road Recycling & Transfer Station (BuRRT)
2600 Buckman Road
Mon. - Sun. 8 a.m. - 4:45 p.m.
Call (505)820-0208 for more information.
(Fees may apply.)

Also, CFL recycling is available at all Home Depot & Lowe's locations. 

For other areas in New Mexico, please check with the New Mexico Environment Department. If your area is not listed, please contact your local Solid Waste Agency.

If there are no CFL recycling facilities in your area, seal the bulb in two plastic bags and put it into the outside trash, or other protected outside location, for the next normal trash collection. CFLs should not be disposed of in an incinerator.

Get More Information 

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