Contrary to what seem to believe, those compact fluorescent light bulbs do burn out. But unlike the Edison bulbs that are slowly being phased out, these aren’t meant to just be tossed into the trash can and kicked to the curb.
The newer bulbs, as most of us know, contain mercury.
There was a time — maybe it still happens — when every school science teacher would pour out about a dime-sized puddle of mercury onto lab tables for students to touch and observe. The metal is liquid in its normal state, and has curious properties.
It’s also a deadly poison, but this fact never stopped science teachers I had from letting us handle the stuff.
There’s likely a far less amount of mercury than that in those bulbs, but to hear people talk, breaking just one should be enough to evacuate an entire block as hazmat crews clear the scene.
One of the new bulbs in my living room just burned out, and now I’m faced with exactly that problem: how do I get rid of the thing without causing come environmental catastrophe?
Fortunately, stores like Lowe’s and Home Depot have taken the hassle out of it: they both offer recycling programs for the CFL bulbs. You’re supposed to wrap the bulb in a trash bag and seal it. (A whole trash bag? How about a sandwich bag?!?) Then they’ll take it from there and make sure, presumably, that it is disposed of in the “proper” manner.
I just hope that doesn’t mean that those wrapped up bulbs will appear in landfills along with everything else.