CONSUMERWATCH: Compact Fluorescent Bulbs
Published Monday, January 9, 2012 1:01PM CST
Compact Fluorescent Light (CFL) bulbs are meant to save energy but now there's concern they may be harming the environment. The bulbs contain mercury and need to be disposed of properly.
Lori Mollberg uses CFL bulbs because they're more energy efficient. But when the bulbs die, she's in the dark as to how to get rid of them.
"In the garbage? I don't know what I'm supposed to do with them," she said.
The bulbs contain about five milligrams of mercury. That's enough to contaminate 5,000 litres of drinking water. Because of that they need to be disposed of in a certain way.
The city is telling CFL bulb users not to throw them in their blue boxes. It suggests bringing the dead bulbs to retailers such as Home Depot or a local hazardous waste recycler.
Environment Canada estimates less than 10 per cent of CFL bulbs are being recycled, meaning the rest could be ending up in the trash.
"If you put them in the landfill they eventually do leach into the environment," said Josh Brandon of Green Action Centre. "All that toxic mercury in the light bulbs eventually does leach in the ground water and into our soil."
Since 2007, the city has tested mercury levels at the bottom of the landfill. So far, no significant traces have shown up.
Last month, the federal government delayed phasing out incandescent light bulbs until 2014. It's using the time to study health effects from the bulbs and develop a nation-wide recycling program for CFLs.
Brandon says that should have happened before the bulbs were introduced into the market. "There are a lot of communities I've heard about, rural communities especially, where there's no options at all available," he said. "So this has to be something that is dealt with on the national level."
Environment Canada says it's up to bulb manufacturers to develop recycling programs which would then be regulated by the government.
"Make us aware and make it easy, then more people are likely to comply," said Mollberg.
The Manitoba government says access to recycling depots may get easier. The province says it's developing CFL bulb recycling programs in all municipalities set to launch later this year.
Visit the following websites for more information about CFL bulb recycling in Manitoba.