Fluorescent bulbs good for environment, if treated properly
May 5, 2011
PRESIDIO OF MONTEREY, Calif. -- The incandescent light bulb was invented, and marketed through his company General Electric, by Thomas Edison nearly 130 years ago. On Sept. 23, 2010, GE made the last incandescent light bulb in its factory.
The incandescent light bulb was a true innovation for its time and one that changed the world forever. However, something that has virtually remained unchanged for the last 130 years could not possibly remain in a world driven by high energy consumption and world demand for power.
The Federal Clean Energy Act of 2007 established standards for light bulbs that would put the dimmer switch down for Edison's invention. This Act mandates that by the year 2014 the phasing out of inefficient light bulbs would take place and be replaced by more energy efficient ones. California upped the ante by passing more stringent rules that set the same standards a year earlier in 2013.
Thomas Edison's light bulbs have become too wasteful in today's world. The old style bulbs use approximately 10 percent of the energy consumption as light and the remaining 90 percent is released as heat. Instead, today we have alternatives that include energy-efficient halogen bulbs, Light Emitting Diodes, or LED's, and Compact Fluorescent Lights, commonly known as CFLs.
In California it is estimated that if every household replaced five incandescent light bulbs with CFLs it would save 6 billion kilowatt-hours and prevent the annual release of 2 million tons of the heat-trapping-gas carbon dioxide, according to the California Energy Commission. That is equivalent to taking approximately half a million cars off the road.
However, with new choices come new responsibilities. The most popular of these new light bulbs are the compact fluorescent or CFL. These bulbs account for a quarter of new sales, and each of these contains up to five milligrams of mercury.
Mercury is a poison and neurotoxin, and one of the worst environmental contaminants. However, there is currently no federal law that mandates recycling of household fluorescent lights, although, several states including California do require fluorescent lights to be recycled for all households and businesses.
Also, as demand for these new bulbs continues to grow it is important to be diligent and take care not to break these new lights. But, if there is a break, follow all directions on the container regarding broken bulbs.
Remember that every person is important in doing his or her part because, according to the Association of Lighting and Mercury Recyclers, currently, only about two percent of residential consumers and a third of business recycle the lights.
For servicemembers, military units and offices, CFLs and other fluorescent lights that contain mercury can be recycled on post by placing the used light in a box (preferably the original) and taking them to the Hazardous Waste Center at Ord Military Community.
For more information regarding military disposal, contact (831) 242-7204. Civilians using fluorescent lights off post may take their lights to Monterey Regional Waste Management District HHW drop off center in Marina at no charge. For more information on this, visit the website www.MontereyRecycles.org.