Monday, March 17, 2008

Disposing of Fluorescents

A few months ago, I had talked about the totally unpublicized downside of Fluorescent lights, including the trendy new Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFLs): the disposal of the MERCURY in them.

This is a followup tale of two disposal scenarios: one of hope and one of despair ...

First, the DESPAIR ...

I've been saving two large fluorescent tubes in my garage for two years, meaning to eventually find and take them to the local recycling center for such things. My father-in-law was visiting for a week and volunteered to deal with these for me.

I felt that we had to drive them somewhere, but he decided to call our trash/recycling service that picks up paper and glass: Trash Away (who supposedly holds all appropriate permits and does things properly). The woman on the phone said to set them to one side and that the pickup crew would set them aside for special recycling.

Based on experience, I never believe anything that comes out of the mouth of HQ of our trash/recycling service. I figured that one of 3 things would happen when we tried this:

A) They would actually do what they said; the recycling truck would pick up the tubes and set them aside. This would be AMAZING and would restore my faith in humanity, or at least in our pickup service.

B) They would leave the tubes on curb

C) They would simply toss the mercury-laden tubes in with all the other garbage on the garbage truck.

So, pickup day came. I was nursing my newborn and watching from the window when the trash/recycling trucks came rolling into my court.

Drumroll please: the answer was: C (of course)
They tossed the mercury-laden tubes into the trash truck, where they will now leak mercury into a landfill or even worse into the air via incineration. Now just imagine mercury coming from every home in the country due to CFLs. Scary.

Now, the HOPE, to counter that sadness ...

After speaking to some of my friends at the Food Marketing Institute (FMI), they are going to talk to some of their action committees about having supermarkets pick up the torch and setup bins for CFL bulb collection and disposal/recycling. That would be excellent.

And in fact, it looks like some markets are already doing it! My friend Joanna reported that MOM (my organic market) in Northern Virginia is already doing it. Hurrah!

Hopefully we'll see some bigger markets follow suite ... Wegman's, Hannafords, Bloom, etc. (I won't hold my breath for Giant. My list of peeves against Giant just grows daily.)

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