If I break a compact fluorescent bulb (CFL), can I still recycle it? How should I clean it up?
Let's answer the clean-up part first. Because CFLs do contain a small amount of mercury, which is toxic, you must be very careful about clean-up. First, make sure children and pets are out of the room with the broken bulb. Then, follow these steps (courtesy of NRDC's This Green Life):
- Open a window before cleaning up, and turn off any forced-air heating or air conditioning.
- Instead of sweeping or vacuuming, which can spread the mercury around, scoop up the glass fragments and powder. Use sticky tape to pick up remaining glass fragments or powder. Wipe the area clean with a damp paper towel or wet wipes.
- Dispose of the broken bulb through your local household hazardous waste program or recycling program. If that service is unavailable in your area, place all clean-up materials in a trash container outside the building.
- Wash your hands after cleaning up.
- If vacuuming is needed afterwards, when all visible materials have been removed, vacuum the area and dispose of the vacuum bag in a sealed plastic bag. For the next few times you vacuum, turn off any forced-air heating or air conditioning and open a window before doing so.
Image from Project Failures