CFL bulbs are energy-efficient light bulbs, using up to 75% less energy and lasting 10x longer than standard incandescent bulbs.
CFL bulbs do contain a tiny amount of mercury (~5mg, 100x less than an old mercury thermometer). However, emissions from coal-fired power plants contain mercury. The power wasted by a normal incandescent light bulb releases more mercury into the air than is contained in and indirectly produced by a CFL bulb (example calculation). Berekeley’s Office of Energy and Sustainable Development explains it pretty well.
Actually, usage of CFL bulbs is encouraged over standard incandescent bulbs. However, if you prefer not to not even use CFL bulbs, consider electric lighting options such as LEDs, or modify your home with natural lighting options such as adding windows, sunroofs or solar light pipes. Candles are romantic, but nowhere near as light-efficient, and most may cause direct or indirect air pollution.
Unfortunately, recycling options are currently slim. Search for a local recycling/disposal center, or store your dead CFLs in hopes that recycling options will become more convenient soon.
CFL bulbs contain a small amount of mercury, so treat them with caution and follow proper cleanup instructions (PDF).
If your bulb burned out and it’s Energy Star qualified, there’s a warranty period (at least two years) in which you can return the bulb to the retailer. That, or look on the bulb’s base for the manufacturer and contact them.
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