Wethersfield resident Patrice Gilbert knew that compact fluorescent bulbs contained mercury, so as they burned out, she put them aside until she could find out where to properly dispose of them. One day, she accidently knocked one off the counter and it broke. “I scooped that broken one up, put the other three in a paper bag, put that in a plastic bag and put it in my recycling bin,” she said. “I didn’t know what to do with them.”
Gilbert’s action is typical. Nationally, only an estimated 2 percent of household CFLs are recycled properly, the Association of Lighting and Mercury Recyclers says. In Connecticut, only 4 percent of households participate in hazardous waste collection days – where mercury-containing CFLs, thermostats and thermometers should be recycled. Instead, those items usually end up in one of the state’s trash-to-energy plants, where, through the disposal process, mercury gas is emitted into the air and eventually pollutes waterways and ends up in fish. While 40 percent of mercury pollution in Connecticut comes from out-of-state sources such as Midwestern coal-fired plants, volcanoes and other sources of pollution, 60 percent comes from in-state sources – primarily the state’s six trash-to-energy plants and its one coal-fired plant.