Are compact fluoresecent light bulbs really cheaper?

Proponents of compact fluorescent light bulbs claim they’re cheaper than incandescent light bubs, even though they cost more.  “The energy savings over the life of the bulb will more than make up for the expensive purchase price,” is the typical claim.

Have you ever seen a cost calculation that includes the cost of recycling compact fluorescent light bulbs?  I haven’t.  Why is this relevant?  Because CFL bulbs contain mercury, which is very hazardous to our environment.  And because recycling these killer light bulbs can be very expensive.  You can’t just throw them in your trash — that’s illegal in some states, in addition to being environmentally irresponsible. sells a compact fluorescent light bulb recycling kit for $107.95!  Factor that price tag into your cost equation and there’s not a chance that compact fluorescent light bulbs are cheaper than incandescent light bulbs.

Are there cheaper recycling alternatives?  You bet.  The cheapest alternative is to send your used light bulbs to Washington — to your Congressman, to your Senator, or to EPA headquarters.  For the cost of a zip-loc bag and a couple of postage stamps you can sleep at night knowing that your hazardous CFL bulbs are in the hands of the experts in Washington!



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2 responses to “Are compact fluoresecent light bulbs really cheaper?

  1. Angus S-F

    Have you looked into the legality of sending, by unsecured postal mail, toxic materials like CFLs?

  2. Angus S-F

    Follow-up to my last question, I did a little research. Don’t know if this will format properly, blog comments typically don’t format well. There are weight limits on the amount of mercury per unit and per package.
    CSR # PS-330 Mailing Compact Fluorescent Lamps

    Mailing Compact Fluorescent Lamps
    April 2008
    PS-330 (601.10)

    This Customer Support Ruling (CSR) describes the conditions under which Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFL), also known as compact fluorescent light bulbs or compact fluorescent tubes, are mailable.

    The Domestic Mail Manual (DMM) and Publication 52, Hazardous, Restricted and Perishable Mail, do not address the mailability of CFLs. However, with recent increases in the use of CFLs mailability questions have emerged.

    CFLs are manufactured articles containing minute amounts of mercury. The amount of mercury in an average lamp does not approach the quantity that requires it to be transported as a hazardous material under Department of Transportation regulations.

    CFLs are mailable when each article or apparatus contains 100 milligrams (mg) (0.0035 ounce) or less of mercury and each mailpiece contains no more than 1 gram (g) (0.035 ounce) of mercury. Lamps are to be separated and cushioned to prevent movement and breakage and must be enclosed inside a rigid outer packaging. The package must be marked, “Compact Fluorescent Lamps.”

    Sharon Daniel


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