The vast majority of consumers are not recycling their compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs, and the result is tons of mercury released into the environment, according to an article in the Contra Costa Times. Statistics provided by the Association of Lighting and Mercury Recyclers estimate that only 2% of consumers and one-third of businesses recycle CFL bulbs.
Each CFL bulb contains up to 5 milligrams of mercury, a potent neurotoxin. When not recycled, these bulbs usually end up in landfills where, along with discarded fluorescent lights, they release into the atmosphere and in storm water runoff upward of 4 tons of mercury annually, according to a study in the Journal of the Air and Waste Management Association.
By federal mandate, incandescent lights will be phased out in the United States by 2014. Most are being replaced by energy-efficient CFLs, as well as the pricier halogen and LED bulbs.
Home Depot, Ikea, Lowe’s and many Ace Hardware stores, among other retailers, offer free fluorescent light recycling.