Tuesday, 4 March 2008

Energy Saving Light Bulbs – A Conundrum

I have a problem.

Like most, I’ve long since switched to CFLs (compact flourescent lightbulbs) – the energy saving light bulbs that we’re all told we should be using these days. The trouble is, I’ve no idea how I’m supposed to dispose of the used ones.

I’ve phoned the council to ask whether they have any special recycling facilities but apparently they don’t (I say apparently because the person you speak to doesn’t always know the answer, they often just think they do) and I can’t see what other options are open.

I’d heard that US branches of IKEA take back these light bulbs for recycling so I checked with my nearest branch but no, the service isn’t available in the UK. The person I spoke to seemed to be surprised that I’d even asked about such a thing and had no idea why they didn’t. I also checked their website and there’s no mention of it there either, even though they really push how environmentally friendly they are.

So here I am with a few burned out lightbulbs and expecting the rest to start burning out any time now but without the foggiest idea as to what I should do with them. I know they mustn't go in the normal household waste because of the mercury they contain – we don’t want that leaking out and potentially causing more environmental damage than burning extra energy with conventional light bulbs would have done, do we? Mercury really isn’t something to be scoffed at.

Anybody have any ideas on this? What do you do with your old energy saving lightbulbs?

Sharon J


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Richard said...

It's illegal for companies to keep spent TV and monitor screens, fluorescent tubes (which energy saving bulbs are) on their premises for longer than 12 months as since 2005 they've been classified as hazardous waste. This looks like something either local or county councils should be providing guidance on. Every initiative seems to have a negative downside.

Richard said...

This is Irish Government advice on domestic CFL breakages, it makes interesting reading and I certainly wasn't aware:

"If a CFL breaks in the home, the householder should open the window in the room for fifteen minutes and carefully sweep up the broken glass. The broken glass should be placed in a double-lined, strong plastic bag and brought to the local Civic Amenity Site, where it should be placed in the container with other fluorescent lamps."

We're definitely lagging behind over here. The company I worked for recently just used to chuck spent bulbs in the skip!

Sharon J said...

Interesting information, Richard. I'm sure most aren't aware of the dangers surrounding these things. I'm seriously considering switching back to conventional bulbs until a suitable disposal solution's available because I really do not like the idea of mercury lurking around, especially not in the home!!

Richard said...

Ireland are leading the way on this. The EU don't have legislation that applies to domestic premises and are following what the Republic are doing. The only legislation applies to commercial premises where there's obviously a question of scale. There are commercial recycling companies but they only deal with businesses at the moment. They ought to be working with local authorities because if private consumers are just dumping their waste bulbs then the same problem of scale is involved at their dumps. Personally, I think the shops that supply them ought to have disposal points. I wouldn't go back to ordinary bulbs though. Besides, they're being outlawed shortly.

Sharon J said...

Yes, they do indeed need to bring in some kind of legislation for private consumers but still none of this is helping me find an answer to the immediate problem :(

Steve said...

You do have to be very careful disposing of CFLs. I found good advise and the government disposal guidelines at MyGreenSquirrel.com. Lots of other energy savings ideas there as well - pretty cool little website!

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