Whatcom Magazine

Recycling tip: Fluorescent bulbs need TLC

A new website for LightRecycle Washington shows Whatcom residents where they can turn in their used fluorescent bulbs. People also can call LightReycle at 877-592-2972 for details.

By law, compact fluorescent light bulbs, known as CFLs, and other fluorescents cannot be put in the trash because they contain toxic mercury. The collection sites include several hardware stores.

Fluorescent bulbs use less energy than incandescent bulbs, but contain small amounts of mercury that could contaminate soil and water when the bulbs break in landfills.

Businesses and individuals can drop off as many as 10 spent bulbs a day for free recycling. The program is funded by a 25-cent fee for each bulb sold at stores.

Many businesses and institutions contract with EcoLights in Seattle to recycle fluorescent lights, says Rodd Pemble of Sanitary Service Co., one of the local sites that accept bulbs.

Have a broken bulb? If you break a fluorescent bulb, LightRecycle recommends that you open windows to vent vapors and leave the area for at least 15 minutes. Next, use stiff paper or cardboard to pick up large pieces, and use duct tape to pick up small pieces and dust. Clean the area with a damp paper towel or wet wipe, then put the pieces and cleanup materials in an airtight container, such as a plastic bag, seal it with tape, and take the bag to a collection site. Be sure to wash your hands, too.