At present, compact fluorescent lamps can generally be disposed of in regular garbage bins - where the garbage goes to landfill. Different local authorities have different disposal arrangements. For example, some garbage is sent to waste processors and this may change the arrangements for disposal. The best method of disposing of CFLs is to wrap them in newspapers to prevent them from breaking. CFLs should not be placde in kerbside recycling collection piles because they can break during transport and contaminate recyclable items. Several states have household chemical collection programs or drop off points that accept CFLs for recycling. Other states are considering introducing similar schemes.
The Environment Protection Heritage Council (EPHC) - which is made up of state, territory, and Commonwealth environment ministers - is currently investigating the issues associated with the end-of-life management (disposal methods) of CFLs.
The EPHC has consulted with industry stakeholders, including the Australian Council of Recyclers, to gather information and to identify the nature and extent of any problems likely to be posed by landfill disposal of CFLs. This work is ongoing, and any recommendations resulting from this investigation will be taken into account in the formulation of a national approach on this matter.
The short term nature of the potential exposure to the mercury in compact fluorescent lamps does not constitute a significant health risk to exposed adults (including pregnant women) or children.
However, Light Bulb Recycling suggests a number of clean up and disposal measures which will further reduce risk:
- Open nearby windows and doors to allow the room to ventilate for 15 minutes before cleaning up the broken lamp.
- Do not use vacuum cleaners or brooms on hard surfaces because this can spread the contents of the lamps and contaminate the cleaner. Instead scoop up broken material (e.g. using stiff paper or cardboard), if possible into a glass container which can be sealed with a metal lid.
- Use disposable rubber gloves rather than bare hands.
- Use a disposable brush to carefully sweep up the pieces.
- Use sticky tape and/or a damp cloth to wipe up any remaining glass fragments and/or powders.
- On carpets or fabrics, carefully remove as much glass and/or powdered material using a scoop and sticky tape; if vacuuming of the surface is needed to remove residual material, ensure that the vacuum bag is discarded or the canister is wiped thoroughly clean.
- Dispose of cleanup equipment (i.e. gloves, brush, damp paper) and sealed containers containing pieces of the broken lamp in outside rubbish bins - never in recycling bins.