While more energy efficient than standard incandescent bulbs, compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs) contain small amounts of mercury. When CFLs are thrown away with the trash, this toxic metal end up in landfills and can eventually seep into surface and ground water -- contaminating our drinking water and the fish we eat, and constituting a major threat to human health. (For more on health effects of mercury exposure and consumption, see: http://epa.gov/mercury/health.htm)
While each borough in NYC has a special sanitation drop-off site, these locations are inconvenient for many people. And though the city does allow residents to throw the bulbs in with their normal trash, for many it just doesn't feel right to add mercury to the solid waste stream.
But now there are a couple of new ways to recycle CFLs. Ikea, which recently opened a new store in Red Hook, accepts CFLs for recycling. And last month Home Depot, of which there are several in Brooklyn and the rest of the city, announced that it would accept CFLs for recycling at every store.
For more information, visit http://www.ikea.com/ms/en_US/about_ikea/social_environmental/environment.html and http://www6.homedepot.com/ecooptions/stage/pdf/cfl_recycle.pdf (pdf)