Tuesday, May 13, 2008

How to recycle compact fluorescent bulbs

The complete article is here with tips on what to do when it’s time to toss them.

The trace of mercury in CFLs carries some environmental concern. Green is good. Buy CFLs to replace your traditional incandescent bulbs. The Washington-based Earth Policy Institute estimates that a complete switch to CFLs in the U.S. could eliminate 80 coal-fired generating plants. A worldwide shift would expand that number to 270.

But here's the problem: CFLs -- like all fluorescent lamps -- contain a small amount of mercury, a persistent poison that can be water- or airborne and cause nerve damage. It is indeed a small amount -- 5 milligrams -- about one-hundredth of that contained in an amalgam dental filling. But multiplied by the numbers out there, it's significant.

Recycling programs include these three choices:

1. Ikea stores.

2. Municipal and special recycling centers. Local waste-management authorities, public and private, have set up varying capacities and programs to take back CFLs. The trick is finding them. Fortunately, a recycling portal known as Earth 911 does a decent job of identifying local facilities. You can enter "fluorescent bulbs" and tell it how far you're willing to drive.

3. Hang on to them. You probably won't have a lot of spent bulbs, at least in the near future. Some environmental advocates advise simply storing old bulbs until recycling becomes more widespread.

And one more IMPORTANT point: If you break a CFL bulb, experts advise not to vacuum the remains -- that will put mercury vapor into small spaces in your home. Use sticky tape or some other mechanical means to get rid of the pieces.

And if you do end up putting your CFL bulb -- broken or intact -- in the trash, the Environmental Protection Agency recommends double-bagging it in two small plastic bags.

Meanwhile, it's worth 15 minutes to check your local recycling options. If you have 15 more minutes, let your local retailers know how you feel about the lack of recycling for these smart green products. It can't hurt.
Sadly, in Las Vegas, NV, we seem to have no options for recycling CFL bulbs according to Earth911.

I would think Lowe's does though. Guess I'll call to find out.

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Blogger Janelle said...

I didn't know about Ikea stores, I'll have to check that out. Ours isn't super close, but as you said, for as often as we'll have burned-out bulbs, my arm could be twisted to take a drive down there. :)

8:55 PM  

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