Compact Fluorescent Lightbulbs save tons of energy but, as one of you pointed out yesterday, contain a trace of mercury. Every time you discard 100 of them, it’s as though you threw a household thermometer in the trash.

But . . .

Joe Prochaska: ‘Any mercury calculation for CFLs has to balance out against the mercury in the coal that is not burned to fuel the incandescents they replaced. The number one source of mercury in our environment is the mercury going up the smokestacks of all those coal fired power plants; about one-third of all US mercury emissions, or 150,000 pounds, comes from coal. CFLs reduce overall mercury emissions by 40%, even if they are not disposed of properly.’

☞ So it would appear Brian’s concern yesterday was unfounded. Still, in the long run, we ought to find a way to recycle household CFLs. And here it is:


James Muster: ‘You write about the disposal of compact fluorescents. I would like to point out this is just the tip of the iceberg. I don’t know how to dispose of the AA batteries I use bunches of, so they go in the trash. I don’t know how to dispose of the emergency rockets and flares that all boats are required to carry (and that expire every three years). I dare not put them in the trash because they could go off. They are pyrotechnics with nasty stuff like phosphorus in them. The regulations and facilities for disposing of the mergansers flares, from boats or from car emergency kits vary wildly around the nation. It’s against the law to just shoot the rockets into the air.

‘As the products we use become more toxic, and clean water becomes more scarce, correct disposal will become more of a problem. Every store that sells disposable batteries should have a battery return bin. Every marine store that sells emergency flares should have a fire resistant return bin. The law should require that every store that sells should also be a return point. My newspapers are picked up in the blue bin once a week, but to legally dispose of something toxic I have to drive 25 minutes to another city. It is not like I live in the boonies. I live in the middle of a metropolis of 1.8 million people!

‘I called the county toxic waste recycling line and they had never heard of a marine emergency flare. I live in Fort Lauderdale, the city that bills itself as a boating capital of the U.S., and yet the toxic waste hot line help did not understand what a marine emergency flare was. Even when you do try to dispose of things correctly you are swimming up hill.’

☞ Since Wal-Mart hopes to sell 100 million CFLs each year (and since they must sell billions of batteries) – what better place to get the recycling ball rolling even without a law requiring it? Wal-Mart could attract customers and kudos by becoming America’s place to recycle. First $4 prescriptions, next leaner packaging to take 213,000 trucks off the road, now this push to sell CFLs . . . imagine if everyone came to know Wal-Mart as the place to go to recycle responsibly.

Full disclosure: I own the stock.

Ed: My county, Camden, NJ, has six ‘special waste collection’ weekends between spring and fall. The county will set up in different communities and collect all kinds of household things that shouldn’t end in the landfill like paint, fuels, pesticides, car batteries, pool chemicals, mercury thermometers – they even have the sheriff’s bomb squad there to collect ammunition. They also just started an electronics recycling program as well. It doesn’t cost anything (albeit my tax dollars) and they make it really easy. I got rid of a few gallons of gas mixed with oil one year for a gardening tool that I didn’t have anymore. I wish more communities took this approach.’

☞ Okay, that, too. But Wal-Mart could do the routine recycling 365 days a year – and invite the bomb squad to use its easy-to-find parking lots on ‘special waste collection’ weekends.


This video will surely make you laugh – and cry. (This, by the way, is John Howard, Prime Minister of Australia.)


Comments are closed.