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How to Dispose of Light Bulbs

Sonia Nair Feb 6, 2019
Light bulbs, especially the fluorescent versions, must be disposed of safely. Here are some tips for proper disposal of light bulbs.
The invention of electric light bulb by Thomas Alva Edison, during 1879, is a milestone in human history. Today, there are different types of light bulbs, like halogen bulbs (a type of incandescent bulbs), fluorescent, compact fluorescent, and the LEDs. Compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFL) and incandescent ones are commonly found in households.
Though slightly expensive than the incandescent types, CFLs are fast getting popular, for their energy-saving properties. Being users of such light bulbs, you must have a basic understanding about the safety hazards associated with them, and the right disposal methods.

Safety Hazards

Incandescent bulbs were widely used in almost all regions of the word, till the advent of the fluorescent light bulbs. This new entrant, which is highly energy-efficient, is fast gaining popularity. Incandescent bulbs break easily, and there is a risk of injury to those, who remove the shards.
However, this is not the case with fluorescent bulbs, that pose a serious health hazard, if not disposed of properly. This is because of the mercury contained in the bulb.
Though each bulb has a small amount of mercury in it, collectively, they may pose a health risk. So, a fair understanding about the proper ways to dispose of light bulbs will prove helpful in preventing certain health hazards to the society as a whole.

Disposal Tips

Proper disposal of light bulbs, especially, the CFLs, is very much important. It has been observed that there are many, who lack awareness about the proper methods of disposing light bulbs. Let's develop a more detailed understanding on the subject.

Incandescent Light Bulbs

Compared to fluorescent versions, incandescent light bulbs do not pose a serious health risk. However, it is always better to dispose of incandescent as well as halogen bulbs in the proper manner, so as to avoid injury to those who clean up the shards.
If you want to dispose of burned out incandescent bulbs, along with the trash; make sure that they are wrapped in newspaper, and then placed in a sealed cardboard box. Mark the box with a warning note and dispose it. It will be much better, if you collect burned out incandescent bulbs, and dispose them at recycling centers.
In case of broken incandescent bulbs, gather the scattered pieces. Pack them in a paper towel, before placing in a sealable plastic bag or container. You may also dispose of light bulbs, by breaking them inside a container that has to be sealed before disposal.

CFL Bulbs

While incandescent bulbs do not pose serious health hazards; fluorescent bulbs need some attention, as far as their disposal is concerned. These bulbs contain a small amount of mercury, in the form of powder.
To be precise, each fluorescent bulb has around 5 milligrams of mercury. CFLs do not break easily, but in case of such incidents, be cautious while cleaning up the shards. Don't use a broom or vacuum cleaner to clean up the broken bulb pieces. Remove kids, pets, diseased people, and pregnant women from the vicinity, and turn of the fan and air conditioner.
This is to block air movements, that can make the mercury particle airborne. Close the doors and windows, and wear a mask and rubber gloves. Use a cardboard to pick up the broken pieces, that have to be placed inside a sealable plastic bag or container. Use damp paper towels to wipe of the powder
If your clothes or other materials get heavily contaminated, dispose them of. If the contamination is mild, wipe with damp paper towels and then wash them. Dispose the glass pieces, paper towels used for wiping, and other contaminated material, in a sealed packing, and stick a warning note on the pack.
Burned-out CFLs have to be packed and sealed before disposing, along with a warning note. However, it is always better to collect them, and dispose of in a recycling center, that is approved for safe disposal of CFLs. Avoid recycling centers that incinerate trash, as this will result in release of mercury into the atmosphere.