Saturday, October 13, 2007

Toward a More CFL-Friendly Cville

Compact Fluorescent Lightbulbs (CFLs) are 4 times more efficient and last up to 10 times longer than traditional incandescent bulbs, resulting in a $45 average savings to the consumer (i.e., you and me) over the life of each bulb. Furthermore, acccording to eartheasy.com, "Replacing a single incandescent bulb with a CFL will keep a half-ton of CO2 out of the atmosphere over the life of the bulb. If everyone in the U.S. used energy-efficient lighting, we could retire 90 average size power plants." That's powerful.

The one downside to CFLs is that they typically contain tiny amounts of mercury. When you consider the amount of mercury that a power plant emits to produce the electricity needed to run a normal incandescent bulb, CFLs still present a less-toxic choice. However, CFLs contain enough mercury that consumers are often urged to dispose of them at community hazardous waste collection sites (which in Charlottesville means a trip to the Ivy landfill) rather than including them with their household trash.

Who is realistically going to drive all the way out to Ivy to dispose of some lightbulbs though? Most of us will just throw our used-up CFLs in the trash, despite the toxic mercury that may be released into the environment as a result.

Good news: Now we have a better choice! Starting Oct. 22, the Rivanna Solid Waste Authority will begin collecting used CFLs at the McIntire Road Recycling Center for proper breakdown and recycling of the bulbs' contents. A special drop-off container will be available for this purpose, and consumers are asked to place the CFLs gently into the container to avoid bulb breakage.

Charlottesville is one of the first communities in Virginia to offer this service and I commend RSWA for taking this small but significant step. Special thanks to John Cruickshank and the Piedmont Group of the Sierra Club for pushing this idea along and thereby making it easier for all of us to do the right thing on behalf of our environment -- and our pocketbooks.

4 comments:

jocelyn said...

Thanks for the heads up! My laundry room socket ate a CFL in less than a year (not happy about that) and I've been trying to figure out where to take the darn thing.

Another quick question you might be able to answer . . . are there CFLs sold locally which are safe for recessed fixtures (like a porch light fixture)?

DaveNorris said...

Good question Jocelyn. I don't know off the top of my head, but I bet the folks at the Blue Ridge Eco Shop (next to Integral Yoga Natural Foods) would either have them in stock, or be able to order them for you...Thanks, Dave

The Road Runner said...

Like these?

You could try Home Depot or Lowes. (That's the most accessible place with CFL's in San Antonio...)

maiaoming said...

I'm so glad to hear this! We've been changing all our lights, but I (dumb me) had no idea you couldn't just toss them. Thanks!