Compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) are more energy efficient and have a longer life than incandescent bulbs. However, there are many health and environmental issues associated with CFLs. Both compact and tube fluorescent light bulbs contain mercury, and while there is no link to health hazards associated with intact lights, there is possible contamination when they are broken or improperly disposed of.
Wisconsin's hazardous waste regulations already prohibit businesses and institutions from disposing waste fluorescent light bulbs in solid waste landfills. When fluorescent lights are landfilled, they pose a threat to releasing mercury into the surrounding environment.
If you are storing a fluorescent light bulb for recycling, make sure you use a cardboard box for storage, to ensure they do not break. Remember if you break a compact or tube fluorescent light, the mercury can evaporate at room temperature and pose a health threat to you and your family.
How to Dispose of Your Fluorescent Light Bulbs
Residents can properly dispose of their fluorescent light bulbs to save landfill space and keep excess mercury and other contaminants out of the environment. Here are some local options for recycling your fluorescent light bulbs:
- Harris Ace Hardware Stores (numerous locations throughout Janesville and surrounding communities) accepts compact fluorescent light bulbs at no charge, and accept any tube lighting for a small fee (approximately $0.75 per tube that is 4ft or smaller).
- URT Processing (2535 Beloit Avenue, Janesville; phone 608-754-3400) accepts all size compact and tube fluorescent light bulbs, as well as ballasts. A charge may apply.
- Home Depot (3200 Deerfield Drive, Janesville; phone 608-741-8970) accepts all compact fluorescent light bulbs and tubes less than four feet at no charge.
- Menards (2001 Morse Street, Janesville; phone 608-756-0535) accepts all compact fluorescent light bulbs at no charge.
- When you purchase your new light bulbs, ask that retailer if they offer a collection program for your unbroken fluorescent light bulbs.
- Rock County Land Conservation Department holds a Clean Sweep program annually. Contact them to see if they offer free collection of fluorescent lights during this event.
The City of Janesville does not specifically endorse any of these private businesses and does not guarantee the quality of service or pricing offered by these private businesses. If you are aware of other local businesses that offer fluorescent light bulb recycling services please let us know by sending us an e-contact by clicking the mailbox icon at the top of this webpage.
What do you do if you break a Compact Fluorescent Light bulb?Because compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) contain a small amount of mercury, the EPA recommends the following clean-up and disposal guidelines:
- Before clean-up - Air out the room: Make sure that all people and pets leave the room, and do not let anyone walk through the breakage area on their way out. Then, open a window and leave the room for 15 minutes or more. Finally, shut off the central forced-air heating/air conditioning system, if you have one.
- Clean-up steps for hard surfaces: Carefully scoop up the glass fragments and powder using stiff paper or cardboard and place them in a glass jar with a metal lid (such as a canning jar) or in a sealed plastic bag. Then, use sticky tape, such as duct tape to pick up any remaining small glass pieces and powder. Next, wipe the area clean with a damp paper towel or disposable wet wipe. Finally, place the towel(s) in the glass jar or plastic bag. DO NOT use a vacuum or broom to clean up the broken bulb on hard surfaces.
- Clean-up steps for carpeting or rugs: First, carefully pick up glass fragments and place them in a glass jar or plastic bag. Then, use sticky tape (i.e. duct tape), to pick up remaining small glass fragments and powder. Next, vacuuming can be done just in the contaminated area. Finally, if you did need to vacuum, removed the vacuum bag, and put the vacuum bag into another plastic bag for disposal.
- Clean-up steps for Clothing, Bedding, etc.: DO NOT wash clothing or bedding if it was in direct contact with broken glass or mercury-containing powder from inside the bulb. Mercury-containing powder from inside the bulb may stick to fabric and contaminate it. Contaminated clothing or bedding should be thrown away. Washing contaminated clothing or bedding may contaminate the washing machine or pollute the sewage. However, it is safe to wash the clothing you wore while cleaning up the contaminated area.
- Disposal of clean-up materials: Immediately place all clean-up materials outdoors in a trash container or protected area for your next trash collection. Wash your hands after disposing of the material in the trash.