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Compact Flourescent Bulb Disposal

May 2, 2009

So….now you want to know what to do with those bulbs, huh? Well, according to the Energy Star website:

“The EPA recommends that consumers take advantage of available local recycling options for compact fluorescent light bulbs. EPA is working with CFL manufacturers and major U.S. retailers to expand recycling and disposal options. Consumers can contact their local municipal solid waste agency directly, or go to or to identify local recycling options.”

Sounds complicated. I am SO buying candles tomorrow.

No really, the point is, doing the right thing is complicated. We can’t just throw things ‘away’ anymore.

There is no more ‘away’.

‘Away’ is now a garbage atoll off the coast of Hawaii that is now DOUBLE the size of Texas. DOUBLE THE SIZE OF TEXAS! It is the largest landfill in the world, only it’s not a landfill, it is the place where several thousand species of marine life used to reside. Maybe we can move there when the beaches of Hawaii are under water. Birds in the area are falling out of the sky, and when they are autopsied, scientists are finding their bellies filled with the shadows and shells of our society; plastic lighters, bottle caps that still read, “You’ve won a FREE Mountain Dew!” I’m sure that brings great comfort to the current owner.

We can no longer throw thingspacific_garbage_patch-600x600 away. There is no more away.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Steve Early permalink
    May 3, 2009 1:36 pm

    And the reason you can’t throw them away is because … they contain MERCURY. How brilliant.

    If you really want to cringe you should read the instructions for what you are supposed to do if you should accidentally break one of these “green” light bulbs. They include making sure you wear a mask, don’t raise any dust, open windows …

    Candles might be good in comparison.

  2. Suzi Sherman permalink
    May 4, 2009 4:29 pm

    I’m glad you are doing this blog. So many people have good intentions but it’s so hard to know what the right thing is to do with every thing.

  3. Angela tombolini permalink
    May 4, 2009 4:43 pm

    You are brilliant. I feel smarter already. I hope this becomes a continuous outlet for you and frequent source of inspiration for me.

  4. defininggreen permalink*
    May 4, 2009 6:29 pm

    I will do my level best!

  5. May 5, 2009 1:33 am

    We should also keep all of this within reason. This article does a good job of talking about the mercury in said bulbs. Turns out that it would take 100 cfl’s to amount to the same levels of mercury found in a common household thermometer. Why is the EPA not insisting on people bringing in their used thermometers to special thermometer recyclers to replace them with digital ones?

    This is definitely a topic that chafes me when I hear it brought up by cfl detractors. The truth is, the amount of good a cfl will do during its life likely far outweighs the negative implications of a possible breakage. But you are definitely right, Illana, we can’t just throw things away, we should be looking at the full life cycle of a product, not just the immediate use.

    As far as candles go, from what I know about them you’d have to get soy candles if you really wanted to do some good because the common cheap candles are petroleum based and filled with all sorts of ickies.

    • defininggreen permalink*
      May 5, 2009 10:19 am

      I completely agree. You so frequently hear people that are critical of the green movement use things like this to say “See….they aren’t doing so good either!”. This is the problem. We have to recognise that the first step to good is less-bad.Bill Mcdonough talks about how if you are hurdling towards a wall at 100mph, slowing down to 30mph will not stop you from hitting the wall. Which, of course is true, but you also can’t make a U-turn at those speeds. We have to slow down first, gather a critical mass os people willing to make a change, then work on turning around.

      My point is that it is absolutely crucial for people to stop just taking other people’s word for what’s right and wrong, and stop taking for granted that they can just do everything the same way we always have. All I want is people asking questions. My goal is to spark debate, wake people up a little, and to do that, I have to poke some holes in the things that I ultimately totally support because they are not perfect, nor are we, as ‘greenies’ perfect. I just want people to take more responsibility for the choices they make, and changing your light bulbs does not absolve you of the fact that you leave your a/c on 24/7, or that you drive an SUV.

      Thanks for the comment, David….I think this may turn in to another full post.

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