Efficient light bulbs need care upon disposal

Saturday, March 22, 2008

More proof that there are two sides to every story -- this time it is those compact florescent light bulbs we're all being encouraged to switch to, and with good reason.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, if every American homes replaced a conventional light bulb with a qualified CFL lamb, we would save enough energy to light more than 3 million homes for a year, reduce annual energy costs by more than $600 million and prevent greenhouse gases equivalent to more than 800,000 cars.

The rest of the story?

Each of those CFLs contains about 5 milligrams of mercury -- only about enough to cover the tip of a pen.

The thing is, that's enough to contaminate 6,000 gallons of water beyond safe drinking levels. Even lamps promoted as "low-mercury" have enough to ruin a thousand gallons of water.

It's enough of a worry that seven states -- California, Minnesota, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin -- ban the disposing of florescent bulbs as general waste.

That's just what most of us do when they burn out, which they eventually do, after as long as 10,000 hours, compared to the 800 to 1,500 hours a conventional bulb lasts.

Red Willow County residents are luckier than most people, we have a Household Hazardous Waste facility in operation three days a week, right here in McCook.

The facility, at 108 W. Railroad Service Road, is open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday. You get there by driving under the railroad on Federal Avenue and bearing left for a few blocks until you see the building on the right.

If you don't live nearby, check out household hazardous waste disposal efforts in your own community.

You've already done the right thing by spending a little money to help save more money, as well as the environment. Now, keep it up by properly disposing of those burned-out bulbs.

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