CFL Bulbs: The Danger, The Clean Up & The State Mandate

5:48 PM, Jun 27, 2013   |    comments
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Greensboro, NC -- We have them in our homes, around our families, our kids and our pets. Compact Flourescent Bulbs or CFL's save us energy, but they contain mercury.

How much? Five milligrams, which is about the size of the tip on a ballpoint pen! Doesn't sound like much. But Guilford County's Environmental Services Co-ordinator Susan Heim says, "Mercury is a toxic heavy metal. And even in small doses you don't want to touch it with your bare hands or breathe in the vapors."

Back in 2010, state lawmakers voted to establish money for free resident recycling centers and mandated all state agencies, universities, community colleges and public schools to come up with a CFL recycling plan and to submit a report. If you didn't, the state could have levied a fine of $15,000.

NC Representative Pricey Harrison said that didn't make much sense to be using taxpayer money for fines. Compliance to the mandate was good enough.

All 18 state universities complied. Of the 24 state agencies, only 1 did not report. Of the 58 community colleges, 9 did not report. But of the 113 school districts, 56 didn't report, including three in our area: Rockingham Count, Stokes County and Lexington City Schools.

2 Wants To Know contacted all three. Rockingham County told us they are implementing a new plan to recycle CFL's this year. Stokes County has been recycling bulbs using what is called a "bulb eater" machine. And Lexington City Schools is now taking bids for next year's recycling program.

And while no one is checking to make sure the recycling is being done statewide, Representative Harrison, the law's co-sponsor, belives the mandate is itself enough.

"We've cut the envinronment department budget by 40-percent. so there's not a lot of staff to make sure they are being complied with. But I'm confident they are keeping it out."

*The 2011 Report by the NC Solid Waste & Materials Management is attached. You can read through and on page 76 is the list of all entities that did not report by the January 2012 deadline. The data is somewhat misleading. 2WTK called to confirm the entities and found some had indeed reported, but either submitted after the deadline or the computer kicked their submission out for some reason.


-Clear room of kids and pets

-Open a window if possible and ventilate area

-Don't use a vaccuum or broom, it will spread the mercury to the rest of the house

-Use gloves if possible. Eye protection isn't a bad idea either

-Use duct tape/mailing tape to pick up the mercury dust & bulb pieces

-Place all in a bag 

-Do not put in the trash. Take to the nearest Household Hazardous Waste Recycling Center

NC has a list of all the HHW facilities. Many hardware stores also have recycling bins for bulbs. It's worth an ask.


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