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State proposes CFL disposal legislation April 8, 2009

Posted by Dr. Z Bulbs in cfl, compact fluorescent, Controversial information, light bulb, List Article.
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What should we do with this guy when he burns out?

What should we do with this guy when he burns out?

Gadzooks! Its me Dr. Z! Seems Compact Fluorescent are in the media yet again! Turns out some states are looking to put forth some legislation to make sure these little spiral buggers are disposed of properly.  Check out the article below for the info!


Dr. Z



Energy-saving lights now poised to pollute Bill would require makers to accept, dispose of dead ones

Portland Press Herald

Mainers have installed millions of energy efficient compact fluorescent bulbs in recent years, thanks in part to state incentives aimed at saving energy and slowing global warming.

Now the state is trying to make sure all those bulbs don’t get thrown into the trash when they eventually burn out. Each one contains a small amount of mercury which, when added up, can poison waterways, fish and people.

Legislation to be presented at the State House today would require makers of the bulbs to set up and promote a statewide collection and recycling program.

Conservationists say the idea will keep an environmental success story from turning into an environmental problem. A group of manufacturers, however, warns that the proposed solution will make the bulbs so expensive that many Mainers may stop buying and installing them.

The proposal is expected to be the most controversial of several mercury-related bills to be presented at a public hearing before the Legislature’s Natural Resources Committee starting at 9:30 a.m. today.

If it passes, Maine would be among the first states to create such a manufacturer-financed recycling system for the squiggly lamps. Several other state Legislatures are considering similar proposals.

“Compact fluorescent bulbs are great products,” said Matt Prindiville, a lobbyist for the Natural Resources Council of Maine, the bill’s primary supporter. “They save energy, they save money, they reduce pollution, they reduce global warming (emissions). But, unfortunately, they contain small amounts of mercury and they need to be disposed of properly.”

Last year alone, Mainers used state rebates to buy 1.2 million of the bulbs, he said. “In five years, those 1.2 million bulbs are going to be coming out of people’s light sockets, and unless we get a successful program in place most of them are going to go into the trash.”

Maine has banned a long list of products that contain mercury in an effort to keep the toxin out of landfills and incinerators. Mercury pollution is the reason the state says pregnant women and children should not eat too much locally caught fish. Other bills to be presented today would phase out or ban the sale of mercury-containing button cell batteries, automobile wheel weights and rifle recoil suppressors.

Compact fluorescent light bulbs have been promoted by the state despite the mercury content because of their other environmental benefits. By reducing the need to make so much electricity, they can even reduce mercury pollution overall, especially if they are recycled.

Efficiency Maine, a state program that promotes use of the bulbs, has set up free spent-bulb collection bins at about 200 retail stores statewide. The program costs about $40,000 a year and recycled a total of 4,723 bulbs in 2008, according to the Public Utilities Commission, which operates Efficiency Maine. That effort is financed by electricity ratepayers.

Towns and cities in Maine also collect the bulbs for recycling, although some charge a fee or only accept them at special collection days.

Most of the bulbs, as well as fluorescent tubes that contain even more mercury, are still going into the trash, according to John James, an environmental specialist with the state Department of Environmental Protection. “We’re one of the better states in the nation, but we only account for 5 percent of the lamps” being recycled, he said.

The DEP is supporting the recycling bill, which also would set limits on the amount of mercury in bulbs sold in Maine.

A statewide recycling program that’s convenient, aggressively promoted and supported by manufacturers would likely capture more bulbs, and would shift the cost away from taxpayers and ratepayers back to the manufacturers, according to Prindiville. Manufacturers will pass the cost onto consumers, he said, but the added cost won’t be enough to discourage Mainers from buying the bulbs and saving energy and money over the long term.

The cost of recycling the bulbs under Maine’s program is now about 75 cents per bulb, according to Prindiville. But, he said, an analysis done by officials in the state of Washington found that manufacturers could do it by spreading the cost and adding only 15 cents to the cost of bulbs that typically cost $1.60 to $3.

A group representing light bulb manufacturers, however, said the impact on prices is sure to be much larger, as much as $1 or more per bulb.

Representatives of the National Electrical Manufacturers Association could not be reached Thursday, but the group has outlined its opposition to the proposals in Maine and other states in letters and policy papers posted on its Web site.

The association has been supportive of recycling programs. But last month it dropped out of talks to develop a national solution after leaders of the effort supported Maine-style legislative proposals emerging around the country.

The group says the cost of recycling bulbs is high compared to the amount of mercury that is kept out of the environment. A bulb typically contains 3 to 5 milligrams of mercury, at least 100 times less than old-fashioned mercury thermometer.

And, it says, the recycling cost will be even higher if manufacturers are forced to create a whole new collection and recycling system, rather than relying on existing programs.

“Efforts to adjust retail prices of (compact fluorescent bulbs) to incorporate recycling costs could increase the price of CFLs by 50 percent or more,” according to a recent policy statement posted by the association. “Higher prices could depress sales and hinder efforts to meet state and regional energy conservation goals.”