Kalamaoo County

Health and Community Services
Environmental Health

Kalamazoo County Household Hazardous Waste Center
1301 Lamont Avenue
Kalamazoo, Michigan 49048
(269) 373-5211

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 coal-burning power plants are a large source of mercury emissions to the air in the United States, accounting for over 50 percent of all domestic human-caused mercury emissions (Source: 2005 National Emissions Inventory). 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