Thomas Edison, Call Your Office

LightBulbBanthebanWhiteThe Washington Post reports that a Maryland fluorescent light bulb recycler has pleaded guilty to ten felony counts of mishandling mercury, posing “serious threats” to workers.

Keep in mind that consumers who use compact fluorescent bulbs, often referred to as CFLs, are supposed to dispose of used bulbs in recycling centers like the one in the story.

I argued in newspapers, during radio interviews and in articles all last year that most people aren’t recycling CFLs, but throwing them in the trash. As many bulbs will be smashed there (if not within the household, then in garbage trucks that compact the trash, or later, in landfills), and we are told that ordinary plastic garbage bags, even tightly sealed, will not contain the mercury safely, I wonder about the safety of sanitation workers after long-term exposure, especially if the incandescent light bulb ban is not repealed.

Despite even my gloomy outlook, it had not occurred to me that recycling centers were similarly dangerous.

Perhaps someone could invent a bulb — we could call it “incandescent,” or even “halogen” — that would not have this problem. And not ban their manufacture or import by 2020.

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