Mercury and Compact Fluorescent Bulbs
8 Jan, 2009 01:50 pm
Compact fluorescent bulbs are rapidly replacing incandescent bulbs. Recently, the European Commission opted for a phase out of the latter in the next decade. But now, in one of the Baltic states (Lithuania), an environmental NGO has started a campaign against the increased use of fluorescent bulbs. The reason: mercury.
However there is more to mercury and lighting than mercury present in fluorescent bulbs. Coal-fired power plants release large amounts of mercury. In principle it is possible to capture such mercury with high efficiency in smoke stacks. Actually, quite a number of waste incinerators in
So is the Baltic NGO wrong? Well, not completely. The point remains that when fluorescent bulbs are tossed in to the trash, mercury will be released. This adds to risk and also leads to the loss of what is by now a very scarce natural resource. To prevent this, a recycling system should be put in place, which allows for the high efficiency recycling of mercury. Deposit-refund systems are known to be conducive to high recycling rates, and such a system for compact fluorescent bulbs would seem a proper basis for mercury recycling.
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(3) M.J. Eckelman et al. Environmental Science & Technology 42 (2008) 8564-8570