Fluorescent Bulbs

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CFL bulb

About Fluorescent Bulbs

Many retailers now have the new, energy-efficient compact fluorescent bulbs available for home use. These uniquely shaped bulbs replace conventional incandescent bulbs in standard light fixtures. Fluorescent bulbs provide significant cost savings over traditional bulbs and are much more energy-efficient to use. However, there are some special considerations to be aware of when using fluorescent bulbs.



Fluorescent lights contain mercury, a metal hazardous to human health and the environment. Any bulb with the HG symbol cannot be disposed of in the trash. These include mercury vapor bulbs, sodium lights, UV lights and ballasts. One broken fluorescent bulb can contaminate 7,000 gallons of water with mercury. Fluorescent bulbs should not be disposed of with your regular trash or recycling.

Safe Disposal

To safely dispose of these bulbs, and other specialty products containing Neon, etc., wrap them securely to prevent breakage and take them to a Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) collection event in your community. Loudoun County’s Office of Solid Waste Management hosts several events around the County throughout the year. Please visit Loudoun County’s website for the latest HHW event schedule.

Disposal of Used Bulbs

Both Lowe's and Home Depot offer free recycling of CFL bulbs. You can also check RecycleABulb.com for other free disposal options.

Bulb Damage or Breakage

CFL bulb-2

If a bulb breaks, close off the room to other parts of the building. Open a window to disperse any vapor that may escape, and leave the room for at least 15 minutes. Carefully scoop up the fragments with a stiff paper (do not use your hands) and wipe the area with a disposable paper towel to remove all glass fragments. Do not use a vacuum as this disperses the mercury over a wider area. All fragments should be placed in a sealed plastic bag, labeled and properly disposed of as household hazardous waste. No adverse effects are expected from occasional exposure to broken lamps.

If a lamp breaks on carpet, first remove all materials you can without using a vacuum cleaner, following the instructions above. Sticky tape (i.e. duct tape) can pick up small pieces and powder. If you must vacuum, after doing so, remove vacuum bag or wipe out the canister, and put bag or vacuum debris in two sealed plastic bags in an outdoor trash container or a protected outdoor location. Wash your hands. (Source: EnergyStar, USEPA)

For more information on recycling in Loudoun County, please call the Waste Management Division at 703-771-5552. You may also visit Know Toxics for more information on safe disposal of various hazardous materials.