You know those squiggly light bulbs that have been getting so much green press for cleaning the environment? The ones that last ten times longer than conventional light bulbs and use one third of the energy? They’re called compact fluorescent light bulbs or CFL’s. I have some in my house and have found that they work pretty well. So I found it interesting when I read an article in New York’s Times Herald-Record reporting that these biofriendly light bulbs have a flaw.
As it turns out, CFL’s contain 5 milligrams of mercury. Not enough to cause problems on their own when in a light bulb, but enough to cause concern when you figure that most of these light bulbs are thrown in the trash, sent to landfills and buried. The danger is that thousands of these light bulbs in a landfill could potentially contaminate groundwater.
What I found interesting about this article was that the light bulb manufacturers have passed the buck on to the government to worry about how to handle disposal, and in doing so has put the government in a pickle. The problem is that the average person doesn’t want to take the time to go to a hazardous waste collection event or a recycling center and pay a dollar to get rid of their light bulb when the trash can is right outside the door. So what do you do?
It’s an interesting conundrum, but for starters education is a good idea. I had no idea until this morning that these light bulbs even had mercury in them. Another thing that ought to change is the one dollar fee for being a good person. If the government wants to get people to recycle light bulbs, then they shouldn’t charge them to do it.
In the end I guess I’m only reporting on this because I truly believe that in the end CFL’s are better for the environment. They use less energy, so less fuel is needed by power plants to keep them lit, and so less harmful emissions are created. For more info in that regard, check out cflbulbs.com. So I don’t think we should all go back to old bulbs because of mercury. But I do think that the word should be spread that these bulbs do have a downside and that each individual can make a difference to offset that.
To find out more about where to take your CFL’s and what new options are being made available for recycling, check out the EPA’s website.