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Recycling – CFLs – Mercury

Go to earth911.org to find a recycling site near you. Just type in what you
want to recycle or hit ‘more’ and select from the list, add your zip, city,
or state and hit ‘go’. Now don’t expect to find many places that recycle CFLs.
Because of the mercury worries involved with these bulbs, those that do will
normally only accept spent CFLs from their area residents.

There are numerous places on the internet that will ship you a kit to hold
your spent fluorescent and/or HIDs (high intensity discharge lamps), etc.
Then when full you ship back via a ground carrier like FedEX (prepaid). The
kits are priced between $60-$90.00 and up. Good, when you equate the long
life of CFLs, and the possibility of not filling the kit for 2 to 4+ years.

At this point I would love to rip into the name brand manufacturers of CFLs
to engage a free return program such as Hewlett Packard does with their
printer cartridges. However, when researching these manufacturers, imagine my
surprise (Not!), to find the vast majority of CFLs are manufactured in India
and China. And the whole world knows how famous China is for being a bunch of
environmentally concerned tree huggers.

We could and should put pressure on the retailers who sell us the bulbs. There
are machines retailers could acquire that act as a reverse vending machine,
for a small fee, you insert your CFLs and receive your eco-certificate like
a receipt.

But until the availability and variety of LEDs improve, CFLs are still our
best option. And as for as the mercury is concerned, CFLs contain a very small
amount of mercury, an average of 5 milligrams, about the amount that would
cover the tip of a ballpoint pen. By comparison, older thermometers contain
about 500 milligrams of mercury (remember your Mom sticking it in your mouth
– if you were lucky – to take your temperature). It would take 100 CFLs to
equal that amount.

Mercury is an element (Hg on the periodic table) found naturally in the
environment. Mercury emissions in the air can come from both natural and
man-made sources. Coal-fired power plants are the largest man-made source
because mercury that naturally exists in coal is released into the air when
coal is burned to make electricity. Coal-fired power generation accounts for
roughly 40 percent of the mercury emissions in the U.S. The use of CFLs
reduces power demand, which helps reduce mercury emissions from power plants.

Switching from traditional light bulbs to CFLs is an effective, accessible
change we can make right now to reduce energy use and prevent greenhouse gas
emissions that contribute to global climate change. Lighting accounts for
close to 20% of the average home’s electric bill. CFLs use up to 75% less
energy than incandescent light bulbs, last up to 10 times longer, cost little
up front, and provide a quick return on investment.

If every home in America replaced just one incandescent light bulb with a CFL,
in one year it would save enough energy to light more than 3 million homes and
prevent greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to those of more than 800,000 cars.

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No Responses to “Recycling – CFLs – Mercury”

  1. Heath Says:

    “Coal-fired power generation accounts for
    roughly 40 percent of the mercury emissions in the U.S. The use of CFLs
    reduces power demand, which helps reduce mercury emissions from power plants.”

    Very intresting.

    Has anyone else had problems with some (and a very few at that) CFl lights not working from the start? Someone said it was due to being knocked around in shipping.

  2. Linda Says:

    Hi Heath … That someone is correct. They are coming from China and my bet is that they are not handled as “fragile”!

  3. Condo Blues Says:

    Home Depot now takes back spent CFLs for recycling.

    Condo Bluess last blog post..Lighting the Olympic Torch

  4. Linda Says:

    Hi Condo … That is great news!!! Thanks for the information!

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