Environment

CFL, compact fluorescent lamps, CFL bulbs

New Initiative Hopes to End CFL Disposal Problem

January 26, 2009 08:00 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
Consumers looking to save energy and cash are increasingly buying compact fluorescent lamps, but safe disposal of the bulbs has long been a problem.

National Recycling Program Targets Toxic Bulbs

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A new national recycling program hopes to end problems related to the disposal of compact fluorescent lamps, which can release toxic mercury into the environment.

The Green Action Project, sponsored by leading waste recycler NLR Inc., is launching a nationwide recycling program that will be offered free to nonprofit organizations, schools, community organizations and events. The ComPak CFL Recycling Center, which can hold 180 CFLs, and when full, can be shipped to NLR for recycling, will be shipped free of charge to qualified applicants.

According to Planet Green, CFLs use 75 percent less energy than incandescent bulbs and last 10,000 hours longer, saving consumers energy and cash. Incandescent bulbs are slowly being phased out of Europe and the United States.

But despite their backing by the Environmental Protection Agency as a way to save energy and limit global warming, compact fluorescent light bulbs come with an unfortunate side effect—toxic mercury vapors that harm the environment. Mercury, a neurotoxin, is particularly harmful to children and fetuses. In some states, cities and counties, it is illegal to dispose of them in the trash.

On its Web site the agency says that it is working with manufacturers and corporations to develop better recycling options.

“The problem with the bulbs is that they’ll break before they get to the landfill. They’ll break in containers, or they’ll break in a dumpster or they’ll break in the trucks. Workers may be exposed to very high levels of mercury when that happens,” said John Skinner, executive director of the Solid Waste Association of North America, the trade group for the people who handle trash and recycling, to NPR in 2007.

Last summer, the home goods store Home Depot announced that it would offer CFL recycling at its stores nationwide.

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Background: Australia switches to CFL bulbs

Australia became a leader in energy conservation when it banned incandescent light bulbs in 2007. The government plans to replace all old light bulbs with CFLs by 2009. In an interview with an Australian news station, Australia’s Federal Environment Minister Malcolm Turnbull said he hoped other countries would follow Australia’s lead.

Related Topics: Junior Energy

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