Christopher Fountain at For What It’s Worth has this idea for disposing of used compact fluorescent light bulbs:
if voters from all over the country sent them to Washington – how about September 30th? – anonymously, we’d shut down the Capitol while hazmat teams ran around like chickens. I’m sending out a link to this suggestion to all my fellow whacko bloggers, in the hope that readers with dead, burned-out CFLs will save them and, after wiping off fingerprints, mail them on the 30th.
Please help spread the word: September 30 is Send Your Light Bulbs To Washington Day!
Mercury-laden compact fluorescent light bulbs will overwhelm recycling programs in Minnesota, according to Dave Dempsey at CleanTechnica.com:
A surge in the number of mercury-bearing energy-efficient light bulbs in use in Minnesota is expected to overwhelm recycling programs in the next few years and there’s no plan yet on how to recycle more of them…
The number of recycled compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) available for recycling in the state is expected to rise from 346,000 in 2008 to 2,419.000 in 2011 as federal and state energy efficiency mandates kick in. Minnesota’s 2008 CFL recycling rate was one of the highest among the states at an estimated 37%, and much of the Gopher State has nearby recycling options.
But many of the state’s consumers aren’t aware that CFLs need to be recycled to contain the mercury. While 73.1% of the state’s households use at least one CFL, only 39% of respondents to a survey knew that recycling of the bulbs is required by Minnesota law.
Local household hazardous waste (HHW) collection programs receive the majority of Minnesota’s recycled CFLs, with home improvement and hardware stores taking back the bulk of the rest. Because most of the local HHW programs are largely funded by county taxes, it’s unclear whether or how funding to expand them will be made available.
If the state’s recycling rate doesn’t improve, Minnesotans will soon be throwing over 1,500,000 CFL bulbs in the trash every year. That’s enough mercury to pollute 1,000,000 gallons of water beyond safe drinking levels every year in each of Minnesota’s 10,000 lakes.
Waste Management Corporation’s “EarthMate” compact fluorescent light bulbs come in a postage-paid box so you can send them back for recycling after they’ve burned out. Included is a “Mercury VaporLok” container so that there will be no mercury spill if the light bulb breaks in transit.
Lloyd Alter at TreeHugger.com likes the idea, but adds this caveat:
Of course, this costs money; they are charging $34 for a four-pack of bulbs, where Home Depot is selling 14 bulbs for $40 and offers recycling. That is too big a spread.
If Mr. Alter really cared about the environment, this price difference would be a small price to pay. Environmentalists talk a good game, but it’s mostly just talk. Only 2% of compact fluorescent light bulbs are recycled in the United States, even though they contain mercury, a dangerous neurotoxin and one of the most toxic chemicals known to man.
Kate Kelly’s very informative Huffington Post piece about compact flourescent light bulbs tells us this:
In 2008 industry experts reported that only 2 percent of all CFL bulbs were being recycled.
Fluorescent bulbs that are not recycled go into the trash that then gets dumped into a local landfill. As rain comes down on the landfill, mercury from thousands of CFLs seeps into the local water supply, which then exposes both animals and humans to more mercury in the environment.
What are the implications of this? Govi Rao, the chairman of Lighting Sciences Group, explains:
“If everyone recycled, fluorescent lights would be all right, but it took people 25 years to become accustomed to recycling paper. Why do we think people will start recycling bulbs more quickly? Short-term, the CFL bulbs save energy, but long-term — without recycling — we cause mutation of the human race by poisoning our environment with mercury.”
If you use dangerous compact fluorescent light bulbs, you have three choices: recycle, mutate, or send your light bulbs to Washington!
The Environmental Protection Agency has a useful page on its web site: “Mercury-Containing Light Bulb (Lamp) Collection and Recycling Programs Where You Live“.
Recycling programs are not available in all areas.
According to the EPA:
Some household hazardous waste collection programs only collect these items once or twice a year, so residents will have to hold on to their light bulbs until the collection takes place.
The EPA fails to mention the best option for recycling your used compact fluorescent light bulbs: send them to Washington!
The address of EPA headquarters in Washington is:
Environmental Protection Agency
Ariel Rios Building
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20460
Send your light bulbs to Washington! They’re the experts. They’ll know what to do.