Recycling CFL Bulbs in Nevada

Just in time for Earth Day

Articles about recycling are big around Earth Day (April 22) so we thought we’d add our effort and let you know how and where you can recycle compact fluorescent bulbs (CFL’s) and fluorescent tubing in Nevada.

This piece is prompted by a question that Speaker of the Nevada Assembly Marilyn Kirkpatrick asked SWEEP’s Howard Geller when he spoke about energy efficiency opportunities in Nevada to the Legislative Committee on Energy last week. The Speaker asked where and how her constituents could recycle the mercury-containing CFL bulbs.

Why CFLs?

CFLs’ use about a third the power of traditional incandescent bulbs and last eight to fifteen times longer. CFL’s are more expensive than incandescent bulbs, but can save over five times the purchase price in energy savings. Here’s a page on the Energy Star website where you can calculate your savings from CFL and LED bulbs.

All that energy savings is good for the environment. According to Energy Star, in 2012 Americans saved $1.8 billion by switching to Energy Star-certified CFL and LED light bulbs. Changing these bulbs removes as much greenhouse gas pollution as planting 9.5 million acres of trees or taking 2 million cars of the road each year. The energy saved could light all households in a city the size of Washington D.C. for eight years.

About mercury

But CFL’s contain small amounts of mercury, a potent neurotoxin.

(Some parenthetical perspective: a coal-fired power plant produces 13.6 mg of mercury to power one 60-watt incandescent bulb, but only 3.3 mg to power an equivalent CFL. Even if the CFL has about 5 mg of mercury inside, using CFL’s results in 5.3 fewer grams of mercury per bulb than using incandescent lighting.)

Nevertheless, because of the mercury CFL’s are classified as hazardous waste, cannot be disposed of in regular household trash, and must be recycled.

To echo Speaker Kirkpatrick, where can we recycle CFL’s in Nevada?

A wealth of CFL recycling options

It turns out we have a wealth of options to recycle CFL bulbs.

Lowe’s recycles both CFL’s and tubes at no charge and with no limit on the number. Take the bulbs to the customer service desk.

Home Depot does the same. I asked the sales rep whether they have a limit to the number of bulbs people can bring in and he said, “Nope, people bring in boxes of them.”

Batteries Plus stores in both northern and southern Nevada accept CFL’s and tubes for recycling for a charge: the northern Nevada franchise charges 66 cents per bulb for CFL’s and 12 cents a foot for tubes; the southern Nevada franchise charges 35 cents a bulb for CFL’s and 50 cents per tube.

In Las Vegas, Republic Services accepts CFL’s at hazardous waste drop-off locations in North Las Vegas and Henderson.

What happens if you break a bulb?

A recycling guide put out by Keep Truckee Meadows Beautiful has good advice on what to do if you break a CFL or fluorescent tube:

  • Open the window before doing any cleaning and leave open for at least 15 minutes to avoid inhaling mercury vapors. Exit and close the door behind you to prevent children and pets from exposure.
  • Wear rubber gloves and use a stiff paper towel or cardboard to scoop up broken glass and powder and put waste in a sealable plastic bag. Do not use a vacuum or a broom as dust will become airborne.
  • Thoroughly wipe down area with a damp cloth or paper towel.
  • Put everything used for cleanup in the plastic bag with the broken glass and powder. Seal bag. Put the sealed bag into a second sealable plastic bag.
  • Wash hands after cleanup. C
  • Contact the recycling resource in your community for collection sites that accept broken bulbs.

So there you go. – all you wanted to know about recycling CFL bulbs in Nevada.  Happy Earth Day.

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