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What to do with an old CFL? Recycle it (safely)

cartoon fluorescent lightsFluorescent lights are energy efficient and long-lasting, but they also contain mercury and lead, so they should be handled cautiously and disposed of safely.

When your fluorescent light bulbs flicker and fade, recycling them properly keeps you safe, and allows most of the glass, metal and mercury to be reused.

What to do when a fluorescent light bulb burns out

  1. Carefully remove the bulb and mark an “X” so you can quickly identify old bulbs when you grab a new one.
  2. Store used bulbs in a safe place that keeps them intact. Broken bulbs release hazardous waste and require special attention.
  3. Properly recycle used bulbs within one year.

Where to recycle bulbs

Contact your property manager or garbage company to see if they can recycle fluorescent bulbs for you.

Use Metro's Find a Recycler search tool to find a nearby facility that collects and recycles fluorescent bulbs. 

 How to start recycling fluorescent light bulbs

  1. Set up a bulb collection area:CFL recycling poster
    • Find a cardboard box: for tube lights, the box the bulbs came in works well. For smaller bulbs, any box will do.
    • Place box in a safe area where it won’t get knocked around.
    • Label the box with a poster about proper CFL handling.
  2. Find where your business will recycle the bulbs.
  3. Create a plan for who will take the bulbs to be recycled when the collection box fills.
  4. Let coworkers and janitorial staff know about CFL recycling, and show them the bulb collection area.

And what about LED bulbs?

If you’re looking for a replacement bulb, LEDs are even more efficient and longer-lasting than CFLs.

When an LED bulb burns out, it’s safe to throw it in the garbage.* Or, you can collect LEDs and find a recycler who can recycle them. (They can have quite a bit of nickel, which makes them worth recycling.) As with any bulb, they should NOT be put in with your mixed or glass recycling.

*Colored LEDs (red, blue, etc.) can contain lead and arsenic, so should be disposed of through a recycler that can process them safely, rather than thrown in the trash.