CFL Helical-typeWHAT IS A CFL ?

A compact fluorescent light bulb (CFL) is a fluorescent light bulb that has been compressed into the size of a standard-issue incandescent light bulb. Modern CFLs typically last at least six times as long and use at most a quarter of the power of an equivalent incandescent bulb.


According to the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency, “Switching from traditional light bulbs (called incandescent) to CFLs is an effective, simple change everyone in America can make right now. Making this change will help to use less electricity at home and prevent greenhouse gas emissions that lead to global climate change. Lighting accounts for close to 20 percent of the average home’s electric bill. ENERGY STAR qualified CFLs use up to 75 percent less energy (electricity) than incandescent light bulbs, last up to 10 times longer, cost little up front, and provide a quick return on investment.  If every home in America replaced just one incandescent light bulb with an ENERGY STAR qualified CFL, in one year it would save enough energy to light more than 3 million homes.  That would prevent the release of greenhouse gas emissions equal to that of about 800,000 cars.”


CFLs contain relatively small amounts of mercury–about 4 to 5 milligrams (mg) in a typical CFL, according to the EPA.  When one CFL is broken in a home, a spill of this amount of mercury (assuming that it is properly cleaned up) is not likely to present any excess risk to you or your family.  However, when thousands of CFLs are placed into a landfill and this toxic mercury is released, it will, given enough time, find its way into the surrounding soil or ground water.

It is far better and safer if these CFLs are collected and sent to a responsible, regional, recycling facility that will carefully extract the mercury from many bulbs and safely save it for reuse.  Here are a few informative references that will help you further study this topic:


Lowe's LogoLOWE’S in Christiansburg (near the Hwy 406-114 intersection) – Just inside the first entrance door, you will see a large green metal container that holds plastic bags in which to place and seal each CFL, as well as a dedicated slot for depositing the sealed CFLs.

Home Depot LogoHOME DEPOT in Christiansburg (near the Hwy 406-114 intersection) – Inside the entrance door, close to the nearest check out register, you will see a large orange-metal container that holds plastic bags in which to place and seal each CFL, as well as a dedicated slot for depositing the sealed CFLs.Recycle Box 02

DOWNTOWN BLACKSBURG MERCHANTS: Each of the Downtown Blacksburg Merchants listed below have a small, black plastic recycling bin, supplied by the Town of Blacksburg. These Businesses will allow Blacksburg residents to deposit used CFLs for safe recycling:

      • Colley Architects – 620 North Main Street
      • Community Arts Information Office (CAIO) – 149 College Ave
      • Eats Natural Foods – 708A North Main Street
      • Fringe Benefit – 117 North Main Street
      • Heavener Hardware & Lumber – 801 Kabrich Street
      • Wireless Zone – 304 North Main Street


How To Prepare CFLs for Deposit In Merchant’s Collection Bins: When a CFL burns out, carefully seal it into a zip-lock plastic bag.  That way, if the CFL should accidentally break after the bag is sealed, the glass and mercury will be contained.

What Happens To The Used CFLs That Merchants Collect A Sustainable-Blacksburg volunteer will periodically collect CFLs from the downtown merchant’s bins and transport them to either Home Depot or Lowe’s in Christiansburg.  This way, numerous Blacksburg residents will not need to individually drive back and forth to Christiansburg just to recycle a few CFLs.

Types of Light-Bulbs NOT Collected by Merchants for Recycling:

  • Incandescent bulbs
  • Halogen bulbs
  • Linear fluorescent bulbs (of any length)**
  • Light-Emitting Diode (LED) bulbs

**Linear fluorescent tubes may be delivered to the Montgomery Regional Solid Waste Authority (555 Authority Drive, Christiansburg, VA 24073), and they will be recycled through the Universal Waste Program.  The disposal fee for these tubes is currently 10 cents per foot with a 25 cent minimum charge.  The separate ballasts from linear fluorescent light fixtures will be recycled for fees ranging from 20 cents to 70 cents per pound.

Please do NOT leave linear fluorescent bulbs at any of the recycling stations in Blacksburg. TAKE THEM TO MRSWA!!

Advantages of the Merchant-CFL Recycling Program for Blacksburg Residents:

  • Having Blacksburg merchants collect CFLs in sealed plastic bags and safely transferred to Home Depot or Lowe’s by Sustainable Blacksburg should reduce the possibility of breakage and will allow for the responsible recycling of CFLs using programs already established by these two large corporations.
  • Proper recycling of CFLs should reduce the number of bulbs irresponsibly placed in with a resident’s trash and ending up in the landfill.
  • The collection and transport of CFLs by one Sustainable Blacksburg volunteer will consume less fossil fuel that when many drive to Christiansburg just to deposit CFLs at Home Depot or Lowe’s.


Broken CFLThe U. S. Environmental Protection Agency has written both Quick Instructions and Detailed Instructions for how to safely clean up a broken CFL (or any other fluorescent light bulb).