>In the last several years, there has been a push from those that provide electrical power and those concerned with the environment to use fluorescent and compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) for lighting to conserve energy. The theory is that the less energy consumed, the less energy power plants need to produce. This in turn creates less stress on the environment due to fewer greenhouse gas and mercury emissions, which lead to global warming and mercury poisoning of our natural resources.

Compact fluorescent bulbs use 75% less energy than incandescent (standard) bulbs and last up to 10 times longer. In comparison, a coal-fired power plant emits 13.6g of mercury to produce the electricity required to use an incandescent bulb but 3.3mg to produce enough energy for a compact fluorescent bulb.

When fluorescent bulbs burn out, what do you do with them? Should they be thrown away in the trash or do they need to be recycled? Fluorescent bulbs contain trace amounts of mercury. The bulbs contain anywhere from 5mg, about the size of a ballpoint pen tip, down to 1.4mg. Mercury is essential to these bulbs’ efficiency.

If bulbs are broken or disposed of in landfills and break, the mercury can leach into the soil, groundwater and eventually into rivers, lakes, streams and our food supply. According to the U.S. EPA’s Energy Star program (www.energystar.gov), if your state or local environmental regulatory agency permits you to put used or broken CFLs in the garbage, seal the bulb in two plastic bags and put it into the outside trash or other protected outside location for the next normal trash collection. Never send a fluorescent bulb or any other mercury-containing product to an incinerator. Other options may be available, such as local recycling programs or retail recycling locations like most Home Depot, IKEA and Ace Hardware stores. Other recycling options can be found at these Web sites: www.epa.gov/bulbrecycling or www.earth911.org.

In the end, compact fluorescent bulbs are a good way to help save Mother Earth and save consumers money when disposed of properly.

For a selection of recycling products from LSS, please click here.