Where Can I Recycle Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs?

Q: Help! My town’s hazardous waste drop-off day was last month and I missed it. Now I have three or four CFL bulbs to recycle and nowhere to drop them off. I can’t drop it off at another county’s hazardous waste recycling event because it's only for residents of that county. I can’t bear the thought of having to wait a whole year to recycle them. Is there anywhere else I can drop off those CFL bulbs to be recycled? And while we’re at it, what about all those other items that are, simply put, a pain to recycle, like my old cell phone charger?

A: Truth be told, I’m not really sure why counties limit drop-off days to their residents only. It seems to me that if someone is willing to drive all the way from their town to yours to drop off a few containers of bleach, you should just let them drop it off, but that’s just me.

I do have some good news for you, though. CFL bulbs did, in fact, used to be a real pain to recycle but when Home Depot started a recycling program for used, unbroken CFL bulbs back in 2008, recycling them got a whole lot easier. Just seal them up in a plastic bag and drop them off at any Home Depot location. The bulbs will then be carefully shipped to a recycling management company and recycled — so you don’t have to wait a whole year to recycle them after all.

What about other hard-to-recycle items? The truth is, these days, more retailers than ever are offering drop-off bins for items not usually accepted in curbside recycling or even at your local recycling center. Here are a few you should definitely know about and take advantage of:

Whole Foods: Whole Foods has partnered with Preserve as part of their “Gimme 5” program to accept #5 plastic containers — you know the ones — hummus containers, yogurt containers, old sippy cups. You can now drop off any plastics labeled with a 5 as its resin identification code and it will be recycled into things like new toothbrushes and razors. Check out some more of Preserve’s expanding product line here.

Staples: Staples offers recycling programs for just about all the hard-to-recycle items they sell. Computers, printers, fax machines, ink (which you can actually get Staples rewards dollars in return for recycling), old cell phones, PDAs, rechargeable batteries. Now you have a place to drop off that dinosaur of a monitor taking up space in the corner of your office floor. Keep in mind, though, Staples does charge a small fee for bigger items.

Best Buy: What about all those other electronics in your home, you ask? Best Buy will take old TVs, VCRs, DVD players — basically anything electronic — off your hands. They’ll also take old CDs, DVDs and even old cables that don’t seem to plug into anything.

Publix: One of the supermarket chains that actually makes it easy and convenient for you to recycle, Publix offers recycling bins for paper and plastic bags, as well as foam egg containers at all of their locations. You can also recycle the plastic bags your newspaper comes in and the plastic that covers your dry cleaning. To take a line from Staples, “That was easy!”

These are just a few retailers that are taking responsibility for the environment, so kudos to them and of course, kudos to you for caring enough to recycle those CFL bulbs instead of just trashing them.

— Chanie

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