Bright Ideas: Increase Efficiency and Reduce Pollution from Lighting Sources

Update: Department of Toxic Substances Control  releases AB1109 Lighting Task Force Report

Compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFL) are seen as an environmentally friendly product  compared to incandescent lamps.  According to the Department of Energy, CFLs use approximately 75 percent less energy than standard incandescent bulbs to produce the same light output, yet can last up to 15 times longer.

Transitioning from incandescents to CFLs will reduce the net amount of mercury released into the environment because it reduces the amount of electricity used. Coal-fired plants supply more than half of the nation’s electricity and are the largest source of mercury emissions into the air, accounting for approximately 50 tons annually. By requiring more energy to operate, using incandescent bulbs are actually responsible for releasing more mercury into the environment than using CFL bulbs. However, some of this decrease in mercury emissions at power plants is offset by increased releases in dumpsters, garbage trucks, and landfills when spent fluorescent lamps are disposed of improperly. Therefore, it is essential for there to be a convenient recycling program in order to make CFLs truly a ‘greener’ product.  

Lighting Background and the Problem of Pollution

What is happening now?

  • In 2007, CAW-sponsored AB 1109 (Huffman), which will substantially increase energy efficiency while reduce pollution from lighting sources and create convenient recycling opportunities as well. The bill was signed by the Governor in October 2007.
  • The U.S. Congress is currently working on new nationwide energy efficiency standards, of which could include phasing out the use of incandescent bulbs in ten years.
  • Currently, Ireland, Australia, Canada and the European Union are all banning or have plans to ban the sale of incandescent light bulbs.
  • The Department of Toxic Substances Control has recently released the AB 1109 Lighting Task Force Report and it is now available online.  The report is a culmination of a lot of hard work and collaboration by a diverse group of stakeholders with a common cause- developing a more cost-efficient and convenient recycling program for Compact Fluorescent lightbulbs (CFL) that is free to the public. CAW's executive director was on the Task Force as a representative of environmental groups. The report included the group's recommendation on collection, recycling, education and outreach, labeling and designation of CFLs.
  • In 2009, CAW-sponsored AB 1173 (Huffman), which would have created free and convenient in-store collection opportunities for the recycling of residential fluorescent lamps for consumers, was vetoed by the Governor.
  • AB 2176 (Blumenfield), the California Lighting Toxics Reduction and Recycling Bill, introduced in 2010, would have established a product stewardship program for mercury-containing lamps and a fee on lamps that does not contain mercury, but are deemed less energy-efficient.  The bill died in Fiscal committee.

Remember to Recycle Your Unwanted Lights!


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i wonder what the impact will be on the planet with these new bulbs i think it might be bad isnt there some nasty chems in side the tube i feel if we are gonna do something then we should change the kind of energy we use then see to effiency