In your April issue (“Home Green Home“), you advocated switching to compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs), which contain mercury. The chance of finding a recycler to take them is slim to none. So those CFLs will eventually end up in the trash and then the ground. How is adding mercury into the earth better than the extra energy expended by a simple incandescent bulb?
—Josette, via e-mail
Thank you for your insightful comments. It’s true that recent research shows that the mercury gas emitted by landfills containing broken CFLs might enter the food chain more rapidly than the mercury released from coal-powered plants. That said, CFLs’ mercury content (about 2.4 mg) is much less than the 10 mg a coal-burning power plant pumps into the atmosphere to power up just one incandescent. Until there is a mercury-free option, CFLs provide an alternative for readers concerned about lessening overall toxic load. Currently, Ikea is the only retailer that recycles burned-out CFLs. You can also bring used CFLs to hazardous-waste disposal sites.