Saturday, January 26, 2008

IMPORTANT: Proper disposal of Compact Fluorescent Bulbs (CFB's)

You've probably been hearing a lot about compact fluorescent bulbs (CFB's) lately. However, I bet you haven't heard a whole lot about these little wonders requiring special disposal.

Understand: I'm not nay-saying CFB's. I think they're great. They last a lot longer and consume waaaaaaay less electricity than regular incandescent bulbs while producing the same amount of light. In fact, I've switched out every bulb in my home, including my exterior lights (well... not the bulbs in the oven or the fridge).

But like most things that are good for our planet, compact fluorescent bulbs do require a tiny bit of effort on our part.

CFB's, like those big fluorescent tubes hanging in high school cafeterias and your grandpa's wood shop, contain a small amount of mercury (about 5 milligrams in a CFB, more in a 4 foot long fluorescent tube). While CFB's are safe to use in your home, care should be taken --especially by bulb-changing babies and pregger moms (if the glass tube breaks, the mercury is released).

The EPA reports that sales of CFB's doubled in 2007 to nearly 20% of the light bulb market. That's 290 million bulbs sold in 2007. That's a boatload (quite literally) of mercury, folks. Five milligrams of mercury adds up extremely quickly to gallons of mercury as all of America switches out every bulb in their homes (20 bulbs or so per household) and begin tossing the spent bulbs in the kitchen trash.

That trash goes to a landfill, and the mercury leeches into ground water and finds its way to the oceans. You may have heard about a recent study done in NYC where sushi grade Tuna was sampled from area sushi restaurants and found to have unacceptable levels of mercury.
"Sushi from 5 of the 20 places had mercury levels so high that the Food and Drug Administration could take legal action to remove the fish from the market. The sushi was bought by The New York Times in October."

-The New York Times
Even if you don't like sushi, the fact is that CFB's contain mercury, and care should be taken in their disposal.

I was pleased to find this site,, which allows you to simply type in your zip code to find the nearest household hazardous material disposal site/service. I suggest using it to find out where you should take your spent CFB's. You don't need to run out to your hazardous waste location every time a bulb burns out; simply keep them in a small box until it's full and then make a trip (some disposal services, like ours here in Colorado, will even come to your home once a year for free).

Other suggestions from the Seattle Times:
"You can also check, which locates disposal options by ZIP code; call the U.S. Environmental Recycling Hotline at 877-327-8491; or contact your local waste-management agency for community guidelines. Additional information is available at Ikea takes back used CFLs, and other retailers are considering it."

Please let your friends and neighbors know that saving electricity is a great thing, but that they need to dispose of those bulbs properly! DIGG this post and e-mail it to your friends and family.


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