If you've heard that CFLs are lousy with mercury, you've heard wrong. In the past 10 years, "reductions in the most used types of fluorescent lighting have decreased [mercury] content over the last decade by 60 – 80 percent," says Melissa Klein of the EPA.
Plus, Americans are recycling more of them than previously reported. A couple weeks ago we blogged a piece from the San Jose Mercury News declaring that CFL recycling rates in the U.S. were abysmal — around 2 percent. Turns out that actually, no one knows how often these bulbs are recycled. Your neighbors could be recycling them at their nearest Home Depot or IKEA as you read this. You don't want to be left out, do you? (Check LampRecycle.org for your nearest recycling point.)
What's more, CFLs represent only a tiny fraction of the mercury released into the environment every year. According to Klein, the value is about 0.12 metric tons, total, or "about 0.1% of human-caused air emissions and releases to water."