This is a guest post by Margie Campaigne, who shared with me an article she had written for a newsletter. I found the information useful and thought other people might find it interesting as well.
A co-op friend recently asked me about what to do with a broken or spent CFL. He was concerned about just throwing them in the trash, with good reason. Actually, a broken CFL is treated much differently from one that has simply burned out. When one burns out or is simply at the end of its useful life, there are a couple of options. The next time you go into a Home Depot or a Lowe’s, just bring your burnt out CFLs with you and put them in the collection area they provide as you walk in! Another option is to take them with you when you are bringing hard-to-recycle materials to the first-of-its-kind Monroe County Eco Park, at 10 Avion Drive, near the airport! See the website at http://www.monroecounty.gov/ecopark.
When a CFL is broken, that’s a whole different story. Just as with any broken glass, you want to be sure each splinter is recovered, among other concerns. What we are advised to do first is open a window in the room for a few minutes to allow any mercury in the air to vent outside. Let me reassure you that this is a VERY miniscule amount. (The total volume of mercury in a CFL is only about the size of the tip of a ballpoint pen. Also, most of it is still actually clinging to the inside surface of the bulb. You most likely get more exposure from eating seafood, or breathing air downwind of a coal-burning power plant.) After sweeping up any large pieces, use a moist paper towel to wipe up the entire area where the bulb broke. Place the towel and broken pieces in a plastic bag, then seal it, and place it in your trash. It is no longer really hazardous. Close the window again, and you are done.