Remember: recycling is a GOOD THING, despite these attempts to find a "sensational" or "dark" side to the drive to save energy and cut greenhouse gas by expanding the use of the new light bulbs.
Mercury in energy-saving bulbs worries scientists
Lisa Von Ahn, March 28, 2007 (Reuters via Yahoo News)
Consumers, in cooperation with U.S. regulators, manufacturers, scientists and environmentalists. Retailers such as Wal-Mart and IKEA.
Mercury, a necessary but toxic part of most compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs). Commercial recyclers and some municipal waste collection services accept used CFLs, as do some retailers. Advocacy groups are calling on other big chains to participate. Special curbside collections by municipalities, mail-back programs by manufacturers and drop-off programs at various places have also been proposed.
CFL sales are currently booming. It is estimated 150 million were sold in 2006. Wal-Mart alone expects to sell 100 million in 2007.
Scientists and environmentalists fear the used bulbs are ending up in garbage dumps.
The average CFL contains 5 to 6 milligrams of mercury. Some are less, between 1.23 and 3 milligrams per bulb. But cumulatively, at waste disposal sites, this represents a risk of toxic contamination. On the other hand, there is a cost of between 20 and 50 cents per bulb involved in recycling.
- Larry Chalfan, executive director of the Zero Waste Alliance environmental group, said the value of the metal, glass and mercury reclaimed from recycling fails to offset the cost of the process. "Someone has to pay," he said.
- But, compared with the overall lifecycle cost of buying and using a bulb, recycling would be less than 1 percent, said Paul Abernathy, executive director of the Association of Lighting & Mercury Recyclers, "a small price to keep the mercury out of the environment."
- "I have CFLs throughout my house," said Lindberg, who lives in California. "None of them have burned out yet. I can't tell you what I'll do with them when they've burned out, but I won't throw them in the garbage."