Wednesday, 13 March 2013

What do you do with your spent CFL light bulbs?

Environment Canada says the mercury contained in a typical thermometer can contaminate five Olympic-size swimming pools to toxic levels.

When they legislated the CLF bulbs in, politicians didn't factor for the mercury content. They didn't worry about how we would dispose of these light bulbs.

I have much trouble with them. They are purported to last many years, but ours have not.

There was a recent local article telling us that Home Depot will not be taking in used bulbs anymore (see below). Rona, IKEA and Canadian Tire still do in Canada.

We moved in in September, 2010, replaced several bulbs and they have konked out at varying rates. I began spotting bulbs in our church burning out.

My issues

Firstly, they take time to brighten up. At my age, with my eyesight going, I want an immediate, bright light. I wear graduated lenses, and haven't my peripheral vision. With all the issues we face with seniors having falls, surely we want to light the rooms brightly.
Secondly, while the new bulbs are efficient, the old ones helped to keep a room warmer.
Thirdly, many of us do not know what to do with the old ones.
Also, I have fond memories of ironing ribbons on a light bulb, when my late mother and I were up to something. They were handy!
Dangers: Minute amounts of mercury can have serious health consequences. The substance can cross the placenta into the fetus, can be transmitted through breast milk, and is often concentrated in fish, birds and marine mammals, especially in the Arctic. Mercury is a potent neurotoxin, and can cause tremors, insomnia, memory loss, neuromuscular changes, headaches and other problems. — that helps consumers locate toxic-waste facilities in their communities.
Also, see Project Porchlight's location page in the USA and Canada.

How to clean up after you break a CLF bulb

Before you tidy
Empty the room of people and pets.
Air the room for 5 - 10 minutes by opening doors or windows. You want the mercury vapours to be diffused.
Shut off the A/C or furnace, essential the fan.

Materials for clean-up
  • stiff paper or cardboard
  • sticky tape
  • damp paper towels or throw-away wet wipes
  • glass jar with metal lid or a sealable plastic bag
Cleanup Process
  • DO NOT VACUUM: This could spread the mercury powder or vapour.
  • Very carefully collect the broken glass and powder.
  • Scoop up glass with the stiff cardboard. 
  • Use the tape to pick up glass fragments.
  • Put the tape into the glass jar or bag.
  • Put the jar or bag outdoors.
  • Check on-line with your local disposal requirements. 
  • Leave the A/C or furnace off for several hours.
See the detailed cleanup instructions for more information, and for differences in cleaning up hard surfaces versus carpeting or rugs.

 Home Depot quietly ends lightbulb recycling program
A large home improvement retailer has decided to quietly pull the plug on its compact fluorescent lightbulb recycling program, upsetting a local environmental non-profit that has handed out hundreds of thousand of the energy-efficient bulbs. Home Depot started selling CFL bulbs, which contain a small amount of mercury, about six years ago. And around the same time they also started collecting the burned-out bulbs — until last week.

  Canada unprepared for flood of mercury light bulbs: › News › National Jan 20, 2013 – High levels of mercury in CFLs mean they must bypass landfill, but there is currently no system in place for recycling. A dangerous neurotoxin, mercury can cross the placental barrier into the fetus, and is found in breast milk. Minute amounts can damage nervous systems, and even lower IQ levels. Environment Canada has proposed, but not yet enacted, regulations setting a maximum on the amount of mercury the new bulbs can contain. 


Judy said...

I hadn't realized there was no legislation about the amount of mercury... That was stupid of them!!

Karen said...

Home Depot is no longer taking old paint either. I also noticed another place is no longer taking cardboard. I don't know if our county recycle center is cracking on these people getting income for these recycle schemes or the outside sources just can't deal with the balony they have to deal with to move this stuff along. Other than batteries, everything we need to dispose of now has to go to the recycle depot on dedicated days.

MeerkatMarlene said...

Thank you for the post about the CFL light bulbs, and how to clean up after a broken one. I was planning to go ask Home Depot for sponsorship or donations of green light bulbs for May, but will now definitely rather go to one of the others.

I have Lyme Disease (bitten in Ontario, near Picton) but we are not allowed treatment in Canada. So, I'm busy arranging a second Lyme Disease Awareness Day in Brampton. We're also hoping to have several people change to green light bulbs on their porch lights for May, to support awareness of this very fast spreading disease. I'll have to link your post somehow, to a post on my own blog when I do a post about the green bulbs.
Marlene (Meerkat)