Maine takes action to dispose of CFLs safely and responsibly
Wednesday, August 19, 2009 - 20:33
While CFLs (compact fluorescent lightbulbs) have been deemed "greener" than incandescent lightbulbs, the EPA claims that these energy-efficient, longer-lived light sources each contain up to five milligrams of mercury. This complicates the waste disposal process of CFLs. Mercury is a potent element that can seep into the groundwater and contaminate drinking water or biomagnify in the food chain.
Interestingly, Maine is leading the nation in legislation forcing CFL companies to create and fund CFL recycling programs. Legislative Directive 973, signed on June 22, 2009 by Governor John Baldacci, mandates that CFL manufacturers pay for the collection and disposal of CFLs and also set a mercury content limit. This means that companies will have to include packaging for consumers to mail in used CFLs. Then it will be the responsibility of the manufacturer to properly dispose of the mercury.
Earth911.com is an excellent site to search for recycling centers for any product that you wish to dispose of safely. Currently, Home Depot will accept used CFLs and send them to mercury recycling companies.
On a side note, I think this issue represents many of the challenges facing sustainable technology today. Are we fixing one problem or inefficiency only to create a new or worse one? We gave up incandescents for more efficient CFLs, but the CFL waste is hazardous to the environment. So which is better? I'm just glad our Maine state government is taking the necessary actions now to alleviate some of these difficulties.
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