Tuesday, January 27, 2009

What to Do With Broken CFL Bulbs

A couple weeks ago I did an update on CFL bulbs after receiving an email from the Environmental Working Group. A guest actually broke a CFL bulb in one of our reading lamps last fall, and I had been wondering what to do with the bulb. Here was the answer. Pleased with my new knowledge, the next time I went to our transfer station, I asked an attendant where such bulbs should be put, where was the mercury bin?

“Are they broken?” the attendant asked. “Yes,” I replied. “Just throw them in the trash.” “What?” I exclaimed, perplexed. “I thought you had a special procedure.” “Only if the bulbs aren’t broken,” came the response.

Well, this made no sense to me. Bulbs that are broken still contain mercury.

So, I called the Mass DEP mercury hotline: 866 963 7287. A very stern recorded voice advised what to do if you break a bulb, scary stuff like
• Do not use a broom or vacuum to clean up
• Close off the room
• Vent the area
• Keep kids away.

One gets the idea that CFL bulbs should have TOXIC written all over the packaging.

Online, I found a number to call at the Barnstable Transfer Station. The woman I spoke to there said, yes, of course Barnstable has a procedure. “Bag it, if broken. Drop it off here. There is a table.”

Wow! A separate table for broken bulbs, potentially leaking mercury.

Finally I called Wellfleet Town Hall and spoke with the health agent. She intends to make sure Wellfleet is soon giving out correct information to folks who bring broken CFL bulbs to the dump.

For details on proper disposal in your area, see this link.