Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs) are energy-efficient lights that contain a very small amount of mercury, an element essential to achieving energy savings. These lamps help consumers cut their lighting energy usage and reduce energy costs. Because they contain mercury these products must be properly managed at their end of life to protect public health and the environment. There are many types of Lights Containing Mercury (LCM) that need special attention: all fluorescent lights (including compact fluorescents, the spiral type commonly used in homes), neon bulbs, ultraviolet bulbs, and High-Intensity Discharge bulbs (HID).
As North Carolinians look to save energy and as new federal lighting efficiency standards start to kick in, more and more households are using CFLs. CFLs are longer lasting than traditional incandescent bulbs; however, burned out CFLs should not be disposed of in landfills. Instead citizens should look for recycling options for these products.
In the past year, North Carolina has benefited from the increased opportunity for citizens to recycle lights containing mercury and CFLs in particular. The growth in collection programs is documented in the rise of recovered bulbs and a number of new recycling outlets provided by local governments, power companies and retailers. The Division of Environmental Assistance and Outreach (DEAO) is planning to issue a press release later this year highlighting the growing options for CFL recycling.
During the fiscal year 2009-2010, local government sponsored household hazardous waste programs and special events recovered over 53,000 pounds of LCMs. In the first half of 2010, the efforts of Progress Energy and retail home improvement stores have recovered 23,000 plus CFLs. Additionally, North Carolina Electric Cooperatives have doubled the amount of offices that offer recycling drop-offs. Electric Cooperative customers can now drop-off CFLs at 16 of the 26 cooperative offices.
To help local governments inform their citizens of recycling options, DEAO has updated information on their website. To locate a convenient, environmentally friendly recycling option, check the DPPEA website at http://www.p2pays.org/Fluorescent/households.asp.