Last month I was helping someone move. There was a decision to be made on a burned-out compact fluorescent light bulb. I felt beset by all there was to accomplish and (o, the shame!) it ended up in the trash.
I can trot out a small list of justifications. But the bottom line is: that was not the correct thing to do. There’s mercury in those puppies and they need to be disposed of so that doesn’t contaminate the world at large.
Obviously, I feel guilty – as I should. I made a mental note to at least learn where the bulbs can go and make an organized space in our house to set them aside and dispose of them correctly. (Just as we already do for dead batteries.)
That guilt and resolve is why this CBC article caught my eye “Home Depot quietly ends light-bulb-recycling program“.
I gather my local remaining disposal options include Canadian Tire, Rona and Ikea. All good to know. But…possibly not at all locations. And according to the City’s own “special items” disposal information, Ikea (not unreasonably) does not want bulbs not sold by them. (Should this be the retailer’s burden in the first place?)
Here’s my point: I am trying to get this right, and it’s a hassel.
Let’s face it, this type of patch-work disposal, which demands both research and special effort, is bound to produce compliance issues.
Change is coming – or is already here – on sales of conventional incandescent bulbs. They’ll no longer be sold as of 2014 in Canada. In the U.S. the game-shifter is something called the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) of 2007. Technically, it’s not a ban. It’s a gradual phase-out of light bulbs that can’t meet required energy efficiency standards. According to this Sept. 2012 article in Computer World:
In the U.S., EISA standard requirement for 100-watt bulbs began last January. The ban on 75-watt bulbs goes into effect Jan. 1, 2013.
The deadline for the most popular bulbs, the 60-watt and 40-watt lamps, is Jan. 1, 2014.
Incandescent bulb technology is an energy hog. By and large, it cannot meet the targets. Which is why/how those bulbs will end up off the shelves. The law can’t stop consumers from using incandescent bulbs, a fact that has led to hoarding for those who prefer the light they grew up with.
Forcing a shift was intended to save energy, of course. And it will do that that. (At the cost of rankling those who feel the market and consumers should make those choices without “nanny state” intervention.) But the disposal issue really needs more attention.
This January article in the Globe and Mail “Canada unprepared for flood of mercury light bulbs“ says the problem goes beyond diverting the light bulbs from landfills. According to information in a report commissioned by Environment Canada, the Globe article states “The Aug. 31 study also found no national or industry-wide standards for the handling of mercury waste”. Furthermore,
The study, which surveyed some 28 of the 123 places that store or manage mercury waste, also found Canada lacks any facility to extract pure mercury from waste, relying instead on mercury distillers in the United States.
The authors warn that with growing restrictions on trans-border movements of mercury, such as a U.S. ban on pure mercury exports effective Jan. 1 this year, Canada may need to resolve pending storage issues.
OK. Sounds like Canada has some homework to do on the light bulb and mercury file. Is it any better in the U.S.?
My husband has a sort of geeky interest in the light bulb scene. He’s been saying all along that the CFL bulbs are going to be a problem and the switch has not been well-considered. He thinks LED bulbs are the future. But LEDs have issues too, including higher expense, at present. Trent Hamm of “The Simple Dollar” put together an extensive comparison of the pros/cons and costs of incandescent, CFL and LED lighting. Here is his bottom line:
Clearly, given the current market conditions, CFLs are the best bargain at the moment for our home lighting needs. However, they have drawbacks – they have special disposal requirements and do not provide immediate illumination as incandescent bulbs and LED bulbs provide.
However, if you’re avoiding CFLs and are directly switching to LEDs from incandescent bulbs, replacement LED bulbs are already there in terms of cost. You’ll have to judge for yourself if the light quality matches your needs.
We just switched to some LEDs in our kitchen. I’m still deciding if I like them or not. They come on at full brightness right away, which I really appreciate. But should you happen to look at them dead on they are almost blinding.
Someday, I hope for something as nice as the instant, warm light of incandescents – which also saves energy and avoids mercury pollution. It doesn’t look like we’re there quite yet!
What are you doing for light in your house? How do you dispose of old bulbs?