Yesterday NPR had a story on the mercury content of flourescent light bulbs. It seems we need to work on recycling for these items when they burn out. I think about all the years we played with mercury when we were kids. We would break thermometers and roll the little beads around in our hands. YIKES!!
From the article:
The head of the Environmental Protection Agency program concedes that not enough has been done to urge people to recycle CFL bulbs and make it easier for them to do so.
"I share your frustration that there isn't a national infrastructure for the proper recycling of this product," says Wendy Reed, who manages EPA's Energy Star program. That programs gives the compact bulbs its "energy star" seal of approval.
She says that even though fluorescent bulbs contain mercury, using them contributes less mercury to the environment than using regular incandescent bulbs. That's because they use less electricity — and coal-fired power plants are the biggest source of mercury emissions in the air.
"The compact fluorescent light bulb is a product people can use to positively influence the environment to… prevent mercury emissions as well as greenhouse gas emissions. And it's something that we can do now — and it's extremely important that we do do it," Reed says. "And the positive message is, if you recycle them, if you dispose of them properly, then they're doing a world of good."
Reed says the agency has been urging stores that sell the bulbs to help recycle them.
"EPA is actively engaged with trying to find a solution that works for these retailers around recycling the product, because it's really, really important," Reed says.
But so far, she says the biggest sellers of the bulbs haven't stepped up to the plate.
"The only retailer that I know of that is recycling is IKEA," she says, referring to the Swedish-owned furniture chain store.
Reed says the EPA has been prodding other retailers, such as Wal-Mart, to do more.
"We are working with Wal-Mart on it, we are making some progress. But no commitments have been made on the part of Wal-Mart," she says.
Wal-Mart didn't respond to requests for a comment on the issue.
EPA also has asked retailers to sell the lower mercury compact bulbs that some manufacturers are making. Engineers say you can't cut mercury out completely.
Some other big companies have started paying attention to the recycling problem.
General Electric has been making compact fluorescents for 20 years. Now the company admits that the little bit of mercury in each bulbs could become a real problem if sales balloon as expected.
"Given what we anticipate to be the significant increase in the use of these products, we are now beginning to look at, and shortly we'll be discussing with legislators, possibly a national solution here," says Earl Jones, a senior counsel for General Electric.
In fact, Jones said he was having his first talks with congressional staffers on Thursday.
Listen to the story HERE