Monday, December 10, 2007

Robbing Peter to Pay Paul

I picked up one of those energy-efficient bulbs from Target the other day.

I only got one because I wanted to try it out, see how it worked, and how long it lasted in a particular light fixture that tends to burn through bulbs quickly.

Pleased with my "green" purchase, I began to open the package and immediately noticed this warning:

Manage in Accord with Disposal Laws
Mercury--a pollutant
I can reduce the energy I consume, contributing to fewer greenhouse gases, by buying bulbs with trace amounts of Mercury in them. Mercury must be disposed of carefully in order to prevent its release into the air and water. In many states it's illegal to dispose of products with mercury in normal trash pick-up. All those fluorescent bulbs aren't supposed to go in the landfill.
We threw two long, tubular, fluorescent bulbs in the trash just last week. We didn't know at the time that we were contributing to mercury pollution--the same pollution that poisons wildlife and builds up in the tissue of fish like salmon and tuna.
The problem then arises of what to do with the bulbs when they are used up. They need to be recycled, and they need to stay intact. Breaking the bulbs can cause the mercury to leak out, creating the chance for pollution or poisoning. Let's face it most people are too lazy to purposely store and recycle used bulbs. It requires forethought and time to find out where they can be taken and how to keep them safe until they are recycled.
So, is it better to risk the contamination of broken bulbs in landfills and trash cans, or should we stick to incandescent lighting? This article , from NPR, gives a more thorough look at the problem and indicates that it still might be better to buy the energy-efficient bulbs.
Personally, I may forgo the whole thing and start buying candles.

1 comment:

Lifewish said...

Oh come on, there's no way that wax manufacture is energy-efficient...