A bright idea: properly dispose of your CFLs (not in the garbage)

Lighting through the years.
Lighting through the years … a candle, incandescent bulb, CFL bulb and LED bulb.

Thomas Edison invented the first commercially viable incandescent light bulb which remained virtually unchanged for over 130 years. While a great source of light, these light bulbs are not very energy efficient as they produce a lot of heat.

In 2014, Canada phased out the manufacture and import of 40, 60, 75 and 100 watt incandescent light bulbs to reduce energy consumption. This left residents with two main options for energy efficient light bulbs: light emitting diodes (LEDs), which were very expensive but also very efficient; or compact fluorescent lights (CFLs), which were cheaper but less efficient than LEDs. As a result, many consumers chose to replace their traditional light bulbs with CFLs.

Energy costs associated with lighting.
Energy costs associated with different light bulbs.

LEDs are now more affordable especially with the combination of sales and ‘Save on Energy’ coupons, bringing the cost of some light bulbs down to less than one dollar. Many consumers are now replacing their CFLs with LEDs and will be disposing their CFLs.

CFLs and mercury

According to Natural Resources Canada, Energy Star rated CFLs currently contain 2.5 milligrams of mercury, a toxic substance. While this is a very small amount, about the size of the tip of a ballpoint pen, mercury can bioaccumulate (build up) and biomagnify (increasing the level of exposure as you move up the food chain) in the environment.

Interesting fact: The “mad as a hatter” or “mad hatter” term can be traced back to the mercury poisoning of hat makers over two hundred years ago. So, the proper disposal of CFLs is extremely important.

Where can I dispose of CFLs?

The key message to remember is to not throw your CFLs in the garbage.

You can safely dispose of your CFLs for free at the following locations:

  • Participating retailers that have ‘take back’ programs such as IKEA, Lowes and Rona. Please call ahead to ensure your local store still takes back CFLs.
  • The Household Hazardous Waste Depot located at 5400 Regional Rd. 25, Milton. Visit www.halton.ca/waste for hours. Note that proof of Halton residency is required. If you live outside of Halton Region, please check with your local municipality.
  • A Special Waste Drop-off Day that many municipalities offer each year. Halton Region has two more dates scheduled this year – in Oakville and Campbellville. Visit www.halton.ca/waste for dates and locations and for 2018 dates when they are announced.

Where can industrial, commercial or institutional sectors dispose of their tubes or bulbs?

Check with your lighting distributor to see if they are registered with the Take Back the Light program. If they are not, you can still participate. Visit www.TakeBackTheLight.ca for more information.

Take Action Burlington! Let’s all do our part and properly dispose of our CFLs and other hazardous waste. Collectively we can make a difference.

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