Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mercury: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, Part 2

Mercury: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, Part 2

The Good: CFL bulbs cost less in the long run and they consume less energy.

The Bad: CFL bulbs contain mercury, and mercury weakens, sickens, and kills people.

The Ugly:

In five years, the citizens of Hermiston, Oregon, my hometown, will have a ship-load of burned out CFL bulbs, over 210,264 bulbs, containing a total of 841,056 milligrams of mercury.

Where are we going to throw them?

Here's what I've found out:

I called our community sanitary service and asked them if they recycle CFL bulbs. After explaining what they are, and what they contain, they said they can only take bulbs that are green-tipped, the ones that contain low levels of mercury, about 4 milligrams per bulb.

That's great. Only later did I realize that the staff of Hermiston Sanitary Service will not comb through the mountain of trash they unload daily for green-tipped CFL bulbs.

The ordinary Hermistonian will likely throw their burned-out CFL bulb into their curbside garbage can, which will end up at the bottom of a mountain of garbage, which will be bulldozed into the ground, which will leach into the Umatilla River, as well as our groundwater, which will release 841,056 milligrams of mercury into our land, food, clothes, water, and air.

Sometime in the next five years.

Hermiston Sanitary Service will only accept green-tipped, low-mercury bulbs. What about the other kind, the high-mercury bulbs, the ones that are actually sold in Hermiston?

I called Walmart. They said they would accept NONE.

I called Smitty's True Value Hardware store. They said they would accept NONE.

I called the Home Depot. THEY HAPPILY ACCEPT ALL FLUORESCENT LIGHTS AND CFL BULBS, GREEN-TIPPED OR NOT, LOW OR HIGH-MERCURY. This is a free, in-store service. It costs us nothing!

Well done, Home Depot!

So, here's the deal, Hermiston. It's up to us, and us alone:

Let's take our burned out mercury-containing CFL bulbs to Home Depot, and while we're there, let's buy something!

I'll go one further:



I will only pick up bulbs in Hermiston, and they must not be from a business or industry. Businesses and industries are required by law to manage hazardous waste. I can help households and charities.

Put your CFL bulb in a box, label it CFL, and call me:

Milt Reynolds

At my next opportunity, I'll come get it and take it to Home Depot. Gladly. With a smile. At no charge.

Get green.

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