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Compact Fluorescent Lightbulbs Can Be Hazardous:Tips for Handling and Disposal

Submitted by Louisa May

Light bulb2President Bush signed an energy bill last month that will require phasing out of incandescent lightbulbs to begin by the year 2012. The old-fashioned incandescents are being replaced by compact, energy efficient fluorescent lightbulbs. We know these lightbulbs cost a little more, last ten times longer, and use 75% less energy, but there is a down side:

Although burned out or broken CFL’s contain less mercury than old thermometers, the EPA considers them hazardous waste.

Where I live In Boulder, Colorado, disposal of these bulbs is still a matter of doing the right thing. According to a spokesperson at Western Disposal Services, the pickup of the county’s residential household waste is not regulated by government, federal or local. Burned out or broken CFL’s may be thrown in with the regular trash or recycle bins, although the “green” choice is to take them to Boulder County’s Household Hazardous Waste Facility. Rules for CFL disposal differ by state. Western Disposal Services considers homeowners or anyone on their residential route “small quantity generators,” so being “green” is up to you and your tenants.

But a broken CFL should be handled with care! A broken CFL is a health hazard.

If you break one, here’s what the Environmental Protection Agency recommends:

  • Open a window and leave the room for 15 minutes.
  • Don’t use a vacuum cleaner to clean up the mess.
  • Wear rubber gloves.
  • Sweep it up and try not to breathe in any airborne particles.
  • Place debris in a plastic bag, seal it, and place in another plastic bag, and seal it.

Being “green” can leave you with some unasked for responsibilities such as making a trip to your local household hazardous waste facility, even if it’s not the law. Boulder County Household Hazardous Waste Facility has a website that lists the particulars of when and where, so doing the right thing with CFL disposal is as simple as keeping your tenants in the know.

American Apartment Owners Association offers discounts on products and services related to your commercial housing investment, including tenant debt collection, tenant background checks, insurance and financing. Find out more at www.joinaaoa.org.

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