Recycling CFLs is not easy in Yates County

Staff Writer
The Chronicle Express

To the Editor:

We have all been urged to change the light bulbs in our homes from incandescent to compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) to save energy and reduce pollution caused by power plant emissions. 

I believe  this is a sound idea and have been doing it for several years.  However, some of the early CFLs bulbs I purchased have burned out, and since they contain small amounts of mercury, should be disposed of as hazardous waste and not in landfills. In researching this matter, I have found that:

My local trash removal service does not collect CFLs for recycling. Instead, they suggest I place them in a paper bag and break them before placing them in the trash, thereby releasing the mercury on my property rather than exposing their employees to it. I sympathize, but good grief!

This is not illegal since there are no local or federal laws that prohibit a homeowner from disposing of CFLs in the trash, which ends up in a landfill.

There are no laws that require manufacturers or vendors of CFLs to collect CFLs for recycling.

There is no collection point for recycling CFLs in Yates County.

The Western Finger Lakes Authority conducts a collection of hazardous waste near Lyons once per year, where they accept CFLs for recycling, but I was advised by a representative there that it would be a very bad idea to conduct a local collection of CFLs to take to Lyons, since this would create a hazardous waste site, for which the penalties could be severe; and a DEC representative that I contacted said that the DEC is working on encouraging some businesses to become voluntary collection centers for recycling CFLs.

From an environmental and economic standpoint, it doesn’t make sense to me to drive from PennYan to Lyons to dispose of one or two CFLs. So, the best advice  I have been able to find is to store my used CFLs at home in a sealed plastic bucket like those used for drywall joint compound, or in a plastic bag inside a cardboard box until a recycling collection point becomes available nearby.

In the meantime, I urge us all to contact our local, state and federal government representatives to address this issue before we end up creating another environmental problem in the name of energy conservation.

Tom Close

Penn Yan