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Tuesday, May 08, 2012

100% Recycling of Compact Fluorescent Lamps
Why 100% of domestic CFLs should be recycled...

The Ban The Bulb campaign is delighted that the phasing out domestic incandescent light bulbs across the EU is now almost complete; with the final 25W and 40W bans taking place in Sept 2012.

However, much remains to be done, especially when it come to ensuring that it is simple and normal for all used CFLs to be recycled.

Compact fluorescent lamps offer 60% energy savings compared to their incandescent equivalents and have become the cheap, mainstream energy-saving technology of choice, yet they still contain 1 - 5mg of mercury.

Mercury is a toxic substance so it is extremely important that it's always disposed of responsibly.

Until mercury-free, energy efficient alternatives such as LEDs (which use 90% less energy than their incandescent alternatives) take over, by falling further in price, new and universal recycling systems need to be put in place, which consistently ensure that 100% of CFLs can be quickly and easily recycled by everyone.

Countries such as Sweden manage to recycle 75% of their domestic CFLs (rising to 90% within their commercial sector) whilst other countries such as Bulgaria recycle 0% of their domestic CFLs (ref: Project EnERLIn, "Report on CFL Recycling Across Europe", 2008).

The Ban The Bulb campaign has called for the recycling of CFLs for many years (see Campaign Goal 4 on the top left of this website), so it is extremely frustrating that so little progress has been made in this important area.

The Ban The Bulb campaign would like to propose two possible solutions, which should either be implemented or bettered:

OPTION 1 would be the return of a small 5p or 5 cent deposit every time a CFL was handed in to a shop or recycling centre.

This system has worked exceptionally well in relation to incentivising the recycling of beer and/or soda bottles in many European countries and could similarly help to build a usable light bulb recycling system in countries instituting a ban.

OPTION 2 would be for cities, councils and countries to offer the doorstep recycling of CFLs. This option might be made possible through the use of specially designed boxes, which stored CFLs safely and could be collected at the same time as other recycled waste.

It is unacceptable that most people face no convenient options, other than to dispose of their used CFLs via general waste bins and thus landfill.

The quantities of mercury contained within each CFL are relatively small and safely contained within intact CFLs, but breakages within the present disposal system are inevitable and need to be addressed.

Over the next 2 - 4 years many millions of used CFLs will need to be disposed, as they come to the end of their useful lives, so before this happens it would be wise to put in place usable and accessible disposal systems for this waste.

In the UK, Recolight has done a highly commendable job of recycling CFLs, via retailers, but it remains the case that the majority of people are unaware of this system and/or not using it.

This means that new recycling systems, which reliably dispose of 100% of used CFLs need to be organised in the UK and every other country instituting a light bulb ban.

We still have time to act, but we now need to act without any further delay.

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