After I sang the praises of CFLs, and patted myself on the back for being a good citizen of the earth, I flipped a switch today and one of the swirly things had already burned out. Minutes before, I was sitting in my car listening to NPR and heard a story stating that CFL’s contain mercury, so they can’t just be tossed in the garbage can when you’re finished with them. The hazardous materials inside the bulbs must be disposed of properly or we’ll end up polluting the landfills with toxic mercury (not to mention exposing sanitation workers to toxic levels of mercury…or our children if they happened to get a hold of one!)…and that doesn’t sound like such a good idea!
Why does being good have to be so damn hard? Thanks to my clients and their collections of hazardous waste or tech products that must be properly disposed of, I frequent the city dump and our local hazardous waste shed WAY more than the average person. So I don’t mind collecting my spent CFLs and getting rid of them properly. But what about the other regular CFL-using Americans who don’t spend their afternoons hanging around the dump? Ikea is the only company actively recycling the swirl bulbs at this point. Wal-Mart, Lowes & Home Depot are going to have to step up to the plate and do their part. Surely they can come up with a handy container to toss these bulbs into. How about a little goodwill and good PR?
If you expect people to make the switch, then you’re going to have to make it easy on us. At this point, you’ve got to pick your poison–wasteful incandescent lights that you can pitch in the trash, or mercury-filled CFLs that require a less-than-convenient trip to the smelly side of town.