March 11, 2007

Don't throw Compact Fluorescent Bulbs in the Trash!

I didn't know this until recently, but fluorescent light bulbs contain mercury and should not be thrown out when they are no longer useful. This includes those oft-recommended compact fluorescent bulbs, said to be the greatest energy saving device since, well, turning off the switch.

Mercury is a highly poisonous substance, and while the amount in a bulb is small, the cumulative effect of hundreds of bulbs in a landfill can be a real hazard. So what are you supposed to do? Here's the word from Wikipedia:

Safe disposal requires storing the bulbs unbroken until they can be processed. Consumers should seek advice from local authorities. Usually, one can either:

* Bring back used CFLs to where they were purchased, so the store can recycle them correctly; or
* Bring used CFLs to a local recycling facility.

Realistically, are people going to do this when we fail to recycle half of our aluminum cans and soda bottles? Will dangerous mercury wind up in our groundwater? I don't see anything on our county's website about fluorescent bulb recycling. And I see that an environmental organization is trying to pressure Wal-Mart to adopt a national recycling program to help lessen the mercury threat posed by CF bulbs.

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