-- The CFL Light Bulb Contraversy --
Burnt out compact fluorescent (CFL) light bulbs need to be recycled and there is now a program in British Columbia (Canada) called Light Recycle that keeps CFL’s out of the landfill, helping to ensure that they are properly recycled. Light Recycle accepts all residential use compact fluorescents and fluorescent tubes.
LED's are a better choice, since one bulb uses 90% less energy to produce the same lumens (as an incandescent bulb) - but are so very expensive that most of us will wait until the price comes down to a more reasonable number. And while CFL's do use only 75% of the energy that incandescent bulbs do... they do contain a tiny amount of mercury and concerns arise when thoughts of a house fire, or broken bulbs... and inconsiderate disposal are considered. However it is also important to realize that these bulbs actually prevent much more mercury and other air pollution that coal-fired power plants produce. Locally, (Creston, BC - Canada) we have the joy of using hydro-power - not all areas are as lucky as we are.
Did you know that more mercury is released in the air due to coal burnt from the extra electricity it takes to power an incandescent light than is contained in a CFL bulb? Studies show (from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, among others) that if you closed all the doors and smashed a CFL bulb with a hammer it would have the same effect as eating a can of tuna, since fish absorb the mercury in air pollution from coal-fired power.
It is also important to note that a CFL amounts to less than 4 mg of mercury per bulb – about one-fifth that found in the average watch battery and less than 100th found in your typical amalgam dental filling, or in a child’s thermometer.
Concerns about breakage can be eliminated when we avoid standing lamps near areas that they might be knocked over – such as children's rooms, playrooms, recreation rooms, workbenches and near irreplaceable rugs and furniture – use LED’s in these areas instead.
If you do break one, open a window, leave the room for 15 minutes, and then brush up the waste - don’t vacuum it.
BC Hydro says that if the average household replaced all its incandescent bulbs with CFLs, it would save 830 kWh a year, which comes to around $60 - every single year. Replacing one incandescent bulb with a CFL will save $52 in electricity over the life of the bulb - which is about 5-8 years (depending on whether it is located in a high use area or not).
Locally, the Home Hardware Building center on NW Boulevard (in Creston BC) offers lightbulb collection. I’ve also seen places like Ace Hardware, IKEA, Home Depot and many others who offer similar programs… some manufacturers also offer take—back programs.
For more information on recycling CFL Light Bulbs check out the following resources:
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