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How to recycle compact fluorescent bulbs

by admin on May 29, 2008

Green is good. Buy CFLs to replace your traditional incandescent bulbs. Lots of people are doing it; about 80 million to 100 million CFL bulbs are already in use.
90% of the energy consumed by traditional incandescent bulbs becomes heat, not light. So a CFL saves roughly 80% of the energy consumed by those traditional bulbs.
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.

Three choices
For most consumers, there are three choices

1. Ikea stores. Leading the way in the CFL revolution, and having sold them for 10 years, Ikea stores throughout the U.S. have collection centers for dead CFL bulbs. An effective solution — if you live near an Ikea store.
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.

If you really must dispose of your bulbs, think about this: The small amount of mercury you’re “putting into play” with each bulb is offset by the amounts of mercury not put into play by coal-fired power plants. So, while it’s not good to throw these away, you come out ahead in doing good for the environment.
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.

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.

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