Recycle, reduce, reuse: doing your part, properly disposing of compact fluorescent light bulbs

  • Published
  • By Trey Rowe
  • 509th Bomb Wing Safety Office
What are those weird looking light bulbs that consumers are starting to use that look like a weird ice cream swirl cone or a pig tail? They are compact fluorescent lights, and a hot item at hardware stores and super stores across the country for their energy and cost saving benefits. 

According to Energy Star, a program that was created by the Environmental Protection Agency in 1992 to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gases, one CFL will save approximately $30 over the course of its lifetime.

The light bulb will pay for itself in energy costs saved in a matter of six months. My small apartment uses approximately 40 light bulbs which I replaced about a year ago with CFL's. According to the Energy Star calculator found online at, I will save $380 a year and $2,747 throughout the course of their lifetime in replacement and energy costs. The lifetime expectancy of these bulbs are estimated to be somewhere between 8,000-15,000 hours of use.

These tiny, reasonably inexpensive swirly cones are beyond great, they are fantastic! However, with every advantage this product offers, they do come with some responsibility on the consumer's part.

CFL's contain small amounts of mercury, a known neurotoxin and a hazardous substance to the earth if not properly disposed of. Most consumers wouldn't think twice about throwing one of these used or broken bulbs into the trash can. What consumers are unaware of is that these light bulbs will be taken to a landfill and if/when the mercury leaks out of the bulb, it will leak into the soil potentially contaminating our water and food sources. As responsible consumers we need to do what is best for our health and the environment and recycle these bulbs after we are through with them.

On Whiteman you have a couple options to properly get rid of used bulbs. If you are a base-housing resident, you can take your used bulbs to "Military Family Housing Self-Help" located adjacent from the base shoppette. They will provide you with a replacement bulb free of charge -- not a bad deal. 

For military and civilian personnel who live off-base, you can take your used bulbs to "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle Program" located at 402 3rd Street, also across the street from the shoppette, for proper disposal. Shops that change out their own CFL's and store the used bulbs within their facility must comply with 40 CFR 273 Subpart B.

The three important points to remember about 40 CFR 273 Subpart B are:
1. "Each lamp or a container or package in which such lamps are contained must be labeled or marked clearly with one of the following phrases: "Universal Waste--Lamp(s)," or "Waste Lamp(s)," or "Used Lamp(s)". 

2. "A small quantity handler of universal waste may accumulate universal waste for no longer than one year from the date the universal waste is generated, or received from another handler." 

3. "Small Quantity Handler of Universal Waste means a universal waste handler (as defined in this section) who does not accumulate 5,000 kilograms (10,000 pounds) or more of universal waste (batteries, pesticides, mercury-containing equipment, or lamps, calculated collectively) at any time." 

Once you've reached your quantity or time limits you must contact Chenega Management to pick up your CFL's. Chenega Management can be reached at (660) 687-6226 on base. If you live elsewhere and are looking for a place to recycle try using the Web site This Web site allows you to enter in the product being recycled and your zip code to find the nearest location for proper disposal.

It is important to be a responsible consumer and doing our part to help the environment out. It is up to us to preserve the Earth.