May 14 - CFLs Last Longer, but Still Need to be Properly Disposed

Compact fluorescent lamps (CFL) have become the go-to lighting recently has high profile names and organizations are pushing for everyone to switch from incandescents to CFLs. This push comes as the country looks for ways to combat global warming. Michael Hawthorne of the Chicago Tribune reports from the EPA that adding one CFL to every household in the country would keep 9 billion tons of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, or 800,000 cars off the road.

Even though CFLs use less electricity and last longer than incandescents, the lights do contain small amounts of mercury, making the lights difficult to dispose of. In CA, such products are banned from landfills and are instead taken for recycling at most household hazardous waste collection sites.

The argument for compact fluorescent lights, or CFLs, is simple: Changing a bulb can save a little money, put a dent in the demand for electricity and contribute in a small way to the fight against global warming.

But daunting questions remain about how ready the United States is for a CFL revolution.

Despite the environmental advantages, retailers and government officials haven't figured out an effective way to collect used fluorescents, though Chicago and some other cities will take the bulbs as household hazardous waste. Each compact fluorescent contains small amounts of mercury, a toxic metal that can damage the nervous system, heightening concerns about proper disposal.

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CAW sponsored legislation, AB 1109 (Huffman) plans to increase energy efficiency in the state, as well as provide for more convenient recycling opportunities for toxic lighting, including incandescents (which contain lead) and CFLs. This recycling component is key when increasing efficiency in lighting because it provides consumers the opportunity to properly dispose of old CFLs. Manufacturers of these lighting devices will have to submit a take-back program plan to the state by July 2009. AB 1109 is scheduled to be heard in the Assembly Appropriations Committee on Wednesday, May 16.

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