American households are full of items we should recycle, even if we can't put them into our recycle bins. Car batteries, products that use household batteries, incandescent light bulbs, and new CFLs (compact fluorescent lights) are some of them. In the United States, a CFL can save over $30 in electricity costs over the lamp's lifetime compared to an incandescent lamp. However, CFLs contain mercury, which can be harmful to humans and the environment if not disposed of properly


Car Batteries

Car batteries are the most recycled product in America.

Automotive batteries are also known as lead-acid batteries.

A typical car battery is made of 60% lead, nearly all of which can be recycled. Most of it is reused over and over again in new batteries.

Your battery probably contains about three pounds of plastic, which can be reclaimed to create new batteries and other products.

The sulfuric acid can be recycled and used in new batteries. It can also be converted to sodium sulfate to create fertilizer, dyes and other products. It can even be neutralized, purified, tested, and eventually released as clean water.

Many automotive retailers will take back batteries.

You can contact your local municipality to find out where to recycle lead-acid batteries.


Household and Button Batteries

If you're using more than about a dozen disposable batteries in a year, you could save money by switching to rechargeables.

If you still have old batteries on hand that may have been manufactured before 1997, it's likely they contain mercury. Contact your municipality for information on how to safely recycle them or go here.

Button batteries often contain silver, zinc, or other toxins and should be recycled. Check with your municipality or go here.


Rechargeable Batteries

Hundreds of products - everything from laptops, PDAs, hair dryers, and cordless tools - are powered by rechargeable batteries.

Batteries are usually either nickel-cadmium (nicad), lithium ion, or nickel-metal-hydride (NiMH). All should be recycled to reclaim valuable compounds and to keep toxins out of the environment.

To learn more, visit ThinkGreenFromHome.com


Incandescent and LED

One of the simplest ways to conserve electricity is to choose energy-efficient lighting options.

Incandescent bulbs are inefficient, because the light they produce is simply a by-product of the heat they generate.

A 60-watt incandescent bulb generates the same amount of light as a 15-watt fluorescent.

Another lighting option is the light-emitting diode lamp (LED), which uses a series of tiny electronic light bulbs that, when placed next to each other, emit as much or much more light than a similar-size standard light bulb. The LED does not burn out all at once, and it uses only a fraction of the electricity of an incandescent

Incandescent light bulbs will be phased out of the U.S. market beginning in 2012 under an energy law approved by Congress.


Compact Fluorescent Bulbs

More and more Americans are saving on energy bills by using CFL bulbs instead of incandescents. But what should you do with the bulbs after they burn out?

CFL bulbs contain small amounts of mercury. If the CFL bulb breaks before it's properly recycled, people can be exposed to this harmful metal.

Some states, cities and counties have outlawed putting CFL bulbs in the trash.

A spokesperson for the Environmental Protection Agency says that even though fluorescent bulbs contain mercury, using them contributes less mercury to the environment than using regular incandescent bulbs. That's because they use less electricity - and coal-fired power plants are the biggest source of mercury emissions in the air.

According to the federal government, if every American home replaced just one light bulb with an Energy Star-approved CFL, the United States would save enough energy to light more than 2.5 million homes for a year and prevent greenhouse gases equivalent to the emissions of nearly 800,000 cars.

Recycling programs at the stores that sell CFLs are still relatively uncommon, although that is gradually changing. The EPA is working with CFL manufacturers and major retailers to expand recycling and disposal options.

To recycle your CFLs, contact your municipal solid waste agency directly or visit ThinkGreenFromHome.com.
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