Household Hazardous Waste Center

Fluorescent Lights and Mercury

Both fluorescent lights (CFLs) and fluorescent tubes can be recycled at the HHW Center.

The following fluorescent lights are accepted:

  • CFLs of any size or shape (see picture at right for examples
  • Fluorescent tubes: from 2 footers to 8 footers
  • Fluorescent tubes: circular, u-shaped (see picture below)

Be careful not to break the tubes or bulbs during transportation to the HHW Center.

Mercury in Fluorescent Lights

CFLs contain elemental (metallic) mercury, but it is a very small amount - an average of 5 milligrams - sealed within the glass tubing. This is equal to the amount that would cover the tip of a ballpoint pen. By comparison, older thermometers contain about 500 milligrams of mercury. It would take 100 CFLs to equal that amount. More information can be found here: http://www.epa.gov/mercury/

CFLs: Good for the Environment

The Environment

How can CFLs be so good for the environment when they contain mercury? The answer is that in the United States, power plants that burn coal to create electricity are the largest source of mercury emissions; they account for about 44 percent of all manmade mercury emissions (Source: 2014 National Emissions Inventory, version 2, Technical Support Document (July 2018) (414 pp, 10 MB, About PDF; discussion starts on page 2-23 of the PDF document). Mercury is naturally occurring in coal. When coal is burned, mercury is released into the environment. The more energy we consume, the more mercury is emitted from these coal-burning power plants. So, using CFLs means using less electricity which equals less coal and results in lower mercury emissions.

Helpful Links:

Best Light Bulbs for Each Room
Energy Star's web site on CFLs
Energy Star's web site FAQs for CFLS & Mercury
EPA's Guideline for cleaning up a broken CFL or tube

Contact Us

1301 Lamont Avenue
Kalamazoo, Michigan 49048

269-373-5211 (hotline)
269-373-5200 (HCS main line)
E-Mail

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