Fluorescent lights should not be tossed in the trash. Replacing incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) is a great way to reduce electrical use and lower your energy bill, but throwing them away in your regular trash can lead to soil and water pollution because CFLs contain small amounts of mercury.
Luckily, the California Take-It-Back Partnership provides free, local and convenient ways for California residents to recycle CFLs (and other household wastes such as batteries and electronic devices) in ways that do not damage the environment.
The state’s investor-owned utilities also provide information on recycling CFLs in their service territories.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency also maintains information on the safe disposal of CFLs.
In addition, if you break a CFL you should not use a vacuum cleaner to clean it up. Even though the mercury is a very small amount, you should use care in disposing broken CFLs. Pick up the pieces using paper towels and wipe the entire area to get the tiny glass pieces and mercury. Throw the paper towels and glass pieces into a doubled-up plastic bag and dispose the bag at one of the haz-mat locations noted on the lists linked above.