COMMENTARY · 3rd March 2011
Should provincial and federal governments be banning incandescent light bulbs?
On the surface, yes, because they use less power and last longer.
But here are a number of drawbacks. They are more expensive to produce (their design), they still have mercury for the starter and their light can be damaging to the human eye.
My main objection to them, however, is that you remove a 90% efficient with 10 % light production heat source and replace them with some thing that produces a lot less heat. That would be acceptable in Australia or California were you in need of air-conditioning but in Canada we need heat most of the time.
In a number of places in Canada, if you replace all your light bulbs with CFL's it will cost you more money, because some heating costs are higher than electricity.
Additionally, some CFL's have been known to start fires.
As for the mercury in the starter, yes they can be properly recycled, but how many of us have seen bottles and cans on the side of the road despite the fact we pay deposits on them? This also applies to LED lights. A study out of the University of California found that some LED lights have heavy metals in them, including lead and arsenic and, when burnt out, should be treated as toxic waste.
CFL's lose strength as they age and produce less light and just today somebody told me that they also can burn out within hours of being installed.
Recycling Mercury ?
Comment by Alexander Pietralla on 7th March 2011
The largest issue with CFL's is its mercury content. After doing some research, mainly on German websites and after reviewing how used CFL's are being treated in Germany , I come to the conclusion , that CFL's should be banned from the market. The recycling system in Germany is probably among the best in the world, yet CFL's are being milled into a powdered substance and then being stored in old salt mines , next to the nuclear waste deposits , as a full recycling of the mercury content on the bulbs is not cost efficient. I highly doubt this is the process that is being legislated for the end-use of CFL's in Canada. I tend to believe , that they will end up in a landfill, break and contaminate the area around with mercury. Still better than if they break under your face and you suffer from mercury poisoning, but most certainly nowhere near a process that is ecologically mindful. As for my household, it will be old school bulbs, LED's or Halogen from here on.
Comment by ed on 3rd March 2011
Here's the EPA on how to dispose of the soon to be mandatory CFL bulbs:
1. Open a window and leave the room (restrict access) for at least 15 minutes.
2. Remove all materials you can without using a vacuum cleaner. Wear disposable rubber gloves, if available (do not use your bare hands). Carefully scoop up the fragments and powder with stiff paper or cardboard. Wipe the area clean with a damp paper towel or disposable wet wipe. Sticky tape (such as duct tape) can be used to pick up small pieces and powder.
3. Place all cleanup materials in a plastic bag and seal it. If your state permits you to put used or broken CFLs in the garbage, seal the CFL in two plastic bags and put into the outside trash (if no other disposal or recycling options are available). Wash your hands after disposing of the bag.
4. The first time you vacuum the area where the bulb was broken, remove the vacuum bag once done cleaning the area (or empty and wipe the canister) and put the bag and/or vacuum debris, as well as the cleaning materials, in two sealed plastic bags in the outdoor trash or protected outdoor location for normal disposal.
Actually, that info is now out of date. Most communities now want you to put the bulbs into a disposal pouch and take it to a recycling center, or use a special compact bulb recycling pail.
When you've finished doing that, calculate how much energy you've consumed driving to the recycling center, as opposed to the energy consumed by chunking your old incandescent bulbs into the trash
I've wondered about that as well.
Comment by Helmut Giesbrecht on 3rd March 2011
Which are easier and less costly to recycle? My experience with them is that rarely do they last longer than the incandescent bulbs. Another thing is what do we do with all the lamps which clip the shade onto the incandescent bulbs? Send them to the place where all obsolete stuff goes - the land fill.