Compact flourescent light bulbs (CFLs) are one of the darlings of the energy conservation movement. For example, Project Porchlight, which started right here in Ottawa, puts CFLs at the centre of their mission to make energy efficiency more accessible to the general public.
There are benefits to CFLs. They last a long time (though in my experience never as long as the package says they will) and they use a fraction of the electricity incandescent bulbs use to produce the same amount of light. However, they have a darker side to them. They contain mercury. While the mercury in CFLs is miniscule, it is enough to make them difficult to dispose of. Under no circumstances should CFLs be put in regular household garbage.
The City’s Take It Back program lists two options for recycling CFLs. Ikea will take back CFLs that customers have bought from the store. And Marchand Electrical Company Ltd. in the industrial East End will take back all CFLs (though I never got around to calling them to confirm this). Unfortunately Marchand is not very accessible to those without cars, so my collection of expired CFLs sat around the basement, growing bigger and bigger.
Fortunately, CFL recycling in Ottawa is easier than the Take It Back guide makes it seem. As of November 2007 every Home Depot store across Canada began their own take it back program to recycle CFLs. Just inside the main entrance to each Home Depot, across from the Special Services desk and before the turnstiles to get into the store, you should find a friendly cardboard box with Home Depots’ Eco Options logo on it. Expired CFLs should be sealed inside a plastic bag, so that the mercury is contained if the bulb breaks, and then placed carefully in the box. Once the box is full, Home Depot will be send it off to recycling.
This past Monday, I took my collection of CFLs to Home Depot and bid them a fond farewell.
For a Home Depot near you, use their handy store-locator.