There’s no way around it: highly efficient, long-lasting compact florescent lamps are a green godsend but with one small (well, not so small) hitch … each bulb contains trace amounts of mercury  — about 5 milligrams — putting them in the hazardous waste category and making disposing of them safely – nine states have banned them from landfills – tricky. And as Earth911recently reported, the EPA, a huge booster of CFLs, has been laying down the law lately when it comes to improper disposal.

So what’s a good greenie to do?

Don’t let the “hassle to recycle due to toxic mercury thing" scare you off. Waste Management has a solution. For almost a year now, WM has been providing home recyclers with a CFL recycling kit (recycling kits for batteries and small electronics are also available) called the WM LampTracker as part of the Think Green From Home initiative.

It’s simple: for $16.95, WM mails you a recyclable cardboard kit that you construct into a box; you insert a special “Mercury VaporLok” foil bag into the box and fill the bag with expired CFLs… it can hold up to 13; once full, carefully seal the bag and box and send it back (a prepaid mailing label is included) to WM and they’ll handle the rest. Done and done … no trips to a hazardous waste disposal center required, just a trip to the mailbox of local post office. And since we all love micro-managing things on the internets, the Think Green From Home program lets you do so with a "My Green Activity" option. 

But wouldn’t it be nice to get a bunch of CFLs and a recycling kit in one fell swoop? What do you know? The big brains at WM recently began offering that option, too. For $33.95 you can order three 23 watt, low-mercury Earthmate bulbs (or four 15 watt-ers) complete with the LampTracker recycling kit. It’s being touted as the “first cradle-to-cradle solution for CFL usage."

For someone (like me) who doesn’t know a thing about disposing of hazardous waste in New York City, it’s quite helpful and I don’t mind paying the price for convenience. Manufacturers of printer cartridges have been offering similar services for a while now and I’m glad to see the bond between CFLs and convenient recycling options become that much stronger, especially with CFL sales soaring.

I’ve not yet burn out enough CFLs to start filling my recycling kit (that’s why I love ‘em) but when I do, I know getting rid of 'em will be no big sweat.

For more on CFLs, check out family blogger Jenn's scoop on which ones contain the least mercury and which ones last the longest, tech blogger Karl's take on a special, Oscar the Grouch-lead "can-paign" in California, and a blog I posted about the complete CFL overhaul of Grand Central Station.

Images: Waste Management

Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

A CFL and a recycling kit walk into a bar ...
There's no way around it: highly efficient, long-lasting compact florescent lamps are a green godsend but with one small (well, not so small) hitch … each bul