March 10

Published by Panetary Health Initiative on

Recycling Flourescent Lights to keep toxic mercury out of our air, soil and water

Well these last few weeks have truly been a case of ‘it never rains but it pours’! While we’ve been very fortunate through the recent rain crisis, we did have a loud sizzle one night that blew one of our lights.

I grew up with incandescent lights and they blew so frequently that we were replacing them all the time. A number of years ago everyone was encouraged to replace incandescents with CFLs – Compact Flourescent Bulbs – which we were told were much better for the environment.

More recently, the move has been to LED lights.

It’s been claimed that incandescent bulbs last for 1,000 hours, CFLs last for 5,000 hours and LED’s last for 50,000 hours. The main drawback of LEDs has just been price.

Sadly, one of the downsides of the CFLs we bought is that they contain mercury. If this goes into landfill it can leak into the air, soil and waterways. Just one fluoro tube contains enough mercury to pollute 30,000 litres of water beyond a safe level of drinking.

Council accepts flourescent and compact flourescent lights free of charge for recycling at the Katoomba and Blaxland Resource Recovery and Waste Management Facilities – it is critical to NOT put them into your red bin because of the mercury. Fortunately the mercury can be recycled but as each one blows over time I’ll definitely be replacing them with LEDs.

At the moment we don’t have recycling options for incandescent and LED lights in the Blue Mountains but it is safe to put them in the red bin.

Today, for my action for A Year in a Day, I gathered my ‘dead’ CFLs and will take them to Council’s Katoomba Resource Recovery Centre tomorrow. I’ll hang on to my ‘dead’ LED (which could go in the red bin) until I see whether there are any options for recycling close by through Ecocycle. Then I’ll go shopping for more LEDs.

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