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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Re: Mercury?

Nice work, Jib! I've cross-posted the following:

I've said once or twice that I have concerns about the actual environmental impact of compact fluorescent light bulbs. In particular, I've noted that the bulbs contain mercury, which is definitely not something to be taken lightly!

Now, it would appear that actual scientists (in lab coats and everything) have caught up with me. They're questioning whether a safe disposal method can be made practical.
One problem with recycling is that it isn't cheap.

Larry Chalfan, executive director of the Zero Waste Alliance environmental group, said the value of the metal, glass and mercury reclaimed from recycling fails to offset the cost of the process. "Someone has to pay," he said.

Costs can range from 20 cents to 50 cents per bulb -- not a paltry sum when some CFLs sell for less than $2 at Wal-Mart.

But, compared with the overall lifecycle cost of buying and using a bulb, recycling would be less than 1 percent, said Paul Abernathy, executive director of the Association of Lighting & Mercury Recyclers, "a small price to keep the mercury out of the environment."
Alternatively, another way to keep mercury from CFLs out of the environment is to not buy them!
Another obstacle lies in the fragility of the bulbs and their mercury content.

"People who are going to accumulate these things from the public are going to have to address the fact that breakage will happen," Abernathy said. "There's the potential for contamination, and I think right now people are a little hesitant to volunteer to take on this liability."

The U.S. government has no single recycling plan in mind, said Matt Hale, director of the EPA's Office of Solid Waste.

Among the alternatives are special curbside collections by municipalities, mail-back programs by manufacturers and drop-off programs at various places, including retail stores that sell CFLs, he said.
Cool! A mail back program! How do I get my four-foot fluorescent tube into a letter sized envelope? Will it blend?

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