The move toward energy efficient lighting has seen a marked increase in the use of CFLs in New Zealand households. These bulbs offer greater energy savings but are difficult to dispose of due to the mercury content.
Compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) or energy efficient lightbulbs
The first generation eco bulbs have begun to find their way to landfill and we, as well as lighting retailers, are fielding a lot of enquiries from the public as to safe disposal options for CFLs.
Central Government has banned the importation of incandescent light bulbs from 2009. It is also illegal under our bylaws to knowingly dispose of hazardous material (such as mercury) in landfills. This means we have to make necessary infrastructure available to the public as recycling is the only safe way to dispose of CFLs.
Where to recycle CFLs
In the absence of an industry solution for the domestic householder, collection areas have been established in Dunedin as a means of keeping hazardous material out of landfill.
CFLs can be taken free of charge at the Customer Service Agency in the Civic Centre and Green Island Landfill. For safety reasons, bulbs must be intact, broken CFLs will not be accepted for recycling.
As an alternative, some lighting retailers in Dunedin also now have a free of charge disposal bin.
Please return the bulbs in their original cardboard packaging if possible.
This service is for householders only. For business enquiries and services contact Interwaste phone 03 479 0079.
For further details contact Waste Minimisation Officer phone 03 477 4000
Why recycle your CFLs
CFLs contain, on average, 5 milligrams of mercury. Mercury is a heavy metal that is toxic to humans, the environment and all other life systems.
It is not safe to dispose of CFLs in a bin or skip destined for landfill.
CFLs are 100% recyclable - the glass and metal components are separated and recycled and the mercury itself is recovered and used in dental amalgam.
How to clean up broken CFLs safely
Handle CFLs with care! We strongly recommend that you use the following clean up process if you break a CFL:
- Open nearby windows for at least 15 minutes to allow the mercury vapour to dissipate.
- Have people and pets leave the room, ensuring the affected area is not walked over.
- Turn off central heating, heat pumps or air conditioning units.
- Wear disposable gloves, dust mask to avoid inhaling mercury vapour and old clothes and dispose of them in a sealed plastic bag.
- Scoop up glass pieces and powder with stiff paper or cardboard - place all debris into a glass jar as the vapour can permeate a plastic bag. (It is the view of the Solid Waste Team to err on the side of extreme caution whereby we do not recommend vacuuming up the debris and thus sending mercury vapour into the air.)
- Wipe the area clean with damp paper towels or disposable wet wipes.
- Dispose of any clothing or bedding that comes into direct contact with powder or broken glass.
- Dispose of at the Special Waste section of Green Island Landfill.
Future Cleaning of Carpets or Rugs
- The next several times the vacuum cleaner is used, turn off any central heating, heat pumps or air conditioning units and open a window prior to vacuuming.
- Keep the central heating, heat pumps or air conditioning turned off and the window open for at least 15 minutes after vacuuming has been completed.
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