EPA Region 3
Topic: CFLs 2009
Date: Friday, January 23, 2009
Host: Have you been putting off switching to compact fluorescent light bulbs because you’ve heard they contain a small amount of mercury? Or maybe you've heard that they're hard to dispose of?
Hi, I’m Donna Heron of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s mid-Atlantic region, and welcome to Environment Matters…our series of podcasts.
With the issue of climate change on everyone’s mind these days, people are looking for ways to cut down on energy use. And compact fluorescent light bulbs – which are also called CFLs – are a great way to do that. But, people do have some concerns about using them.
With me today is Dan Gallo, who is an electronics recycling specialist with us here at the EPA.
Donna: Welcome Dan, so Dan tell me about these compact fluorescent lights, I can hardly ever say that word. It's very hard to remember how to say it but they're also known as CFLs.
Dan: That's correct, Donna.
Donna: What are the advantages?
Dan: Well, CFL saves about 75% of the energy compared to a traditional incandescent light bulb. That definitely outweighs any disadvantages.
Donna: But there are people that are concerned about there being mercury in these things?
Dan: Yes, Donna mercury contained in the CFLs is really in minute amounts – is equivalent to about five milligrams of mercury and that's equal to the amount that would cover the tip of a ballpoint pen. So, the benefits of the energy savings far outweigh any disadvantages.
Donna: And what are the some of the benefits?
Dan: Some of the benefits – they use 75 percent less energy so that's the equivalent of saving enough energy to power 3 million homes for a year and is equivalent of 800,000 cars operating for a year and reducing greenhouse gas emissions by equivalent of 800,000 cars.
Donna: So, CFLs are actually a very good thing to use.
Dan: Definitely, they are very beneficial to the environment and economically beneficial to people.
Donna: Now, what happens if, well…eventually the bulb is gonna burn out?
Donna: So, what will I do with the bulb?
Dan: The good news is you can take then to either Home Depot, IKEA or Ace Hardware for recycling.
Donna: And what would I do? I just walk in the store with my burned out bulbs?
Dan: Just walk in the store and give it to store employees and they collect the bulbs and they'll take them to a recycler.
Donna: OK. Now, however, what would happen if I accidentally break the bulb?
Dan: That's a good question. The first thing you want to do is to get everyone out of room including pets and you'll want to open a window to air out the room. Stay out of the room for at least 15 minutes. Once you do that, if you broke it on a hardwood floor or hard surface, you want to take a piece of stiff paper or cardboard and scoop up as much of the debris and residue as you can, and there might be some powder residue also that you want to try to scoop that up. Next thing you want to do is -- and you may want to put an old glove or an old sock on your hand as you doing this avoid using your bare hand -- and you want to scoop up or take a moist paper towel or one of those wipes and scoop up any other residue that might be on the floor. If you broke the bulb on a carpeted surface, you want to use sticky tape to blot up any residue. Pick up the bigger pieces and put everything in a plastic bag that can be sealed or a jar that can be sealed with a lid.
Donna: Now, what do I do with that jar and plastic bag?
Dan: You can take that sealed plastic bag or sealed jar and put it in your regular trash.
Donna: So, I don't have to take it anywhere special?
Dan: No, you don't have to take it anywhere special.
Donna: Now, is all this information on our website?
Dan: Yes, Donna it is. If you go to epa.g-o-v and type in compact fluorescent light bulbs it will come up with our CFL website and there's a lot of information there.
Donna: OK, I understand that one of the links we have is to Earth 911?
Dan: Yes, there's a great website called Earth911.org and if you go to our website or go to the link, Earth911.org, and you type in the words, CFL or compact fluorescent lights bulbs and it then lets you put in a zip code and once you do that it'll come up with locations where you can take your old CFLs and also other items for recycling.
Donna: OK, so I can put glass or paper or anything else.
Dan: Yes, yes you can.
Donna: Old televisions?
Dan: Yes, any item, it'll come up…
Donna: It'll tell me exactly where I can take it.
Donna: Excellent. Well Dan, thank you so much for giving us this important information and thank you all for joining us on Environment Matters.