RALEIGH – Compact fluorescent lights save energy and prevent pollution but must be properly handled and disposed of because they contain harmful mercury.
“We are excited about the growth of recycling opportunities for CFLs (compact fluorescent lights) across the state,” said DEAO environmental specialist Joseph Fitzpatrick. “North Carolina citizens now have multiple ways to make sure that CFLs are properly managed at the end of their useful life.”
If every American home replaced just one incandescent light with an ENERGY STAR-rated CFL, it would save enough energy to light 3 million homes for a year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. This action would also result in about $600 million in annual energy cost savings and reduce greenhouse gas emissions equal to the amount released by about 800,000 cars.
Compact fluorescent lights are also practical for the pocketbook. For the average consumer, a CFL can save up to $25 during the course of its life through reduced energy usage and replacement of short-lasting incandescent bulbs. CFLs are favorable to incandescent bulbs because they use about 75 percent less energy and last up to 10 times longer.
However, the vapor that produces the light in CFLs contains a small amount of mercury. High levels of mercury exposure have been shown to harm the central nervous system, particularly in babies and young children.
Mercury in the bulb is not likely to harm people because it is contained. CFLs become a health concern if the bulbs break or are not disposed of correctly. CFLs should be recycled, not discarded in the garbage.
Today, North Carolina boasts a growing number of places that collect and recycle compact fluorescent lights.During fiscal 2009-10, more than 53,000 pounds of lights containing mercury were collected during programs and events sponsored by local governments in North Carolina. In the first half of 2010, more than 23,000 CFLs were collected and recycled, thanks to the efforts of local governments and Progress Energy, Home Depot and Lowe’s Home Improvement stores. In addition, North Carolina electric cooperatives have doubled the amount of offices that offer recycling drop-offs. Electric cooperative customers can now drop off CFLs at 16 of the 26 cooperative offices.
# # #