Update: Home Depot responded to the blog posting I sent them. They don’t seem to have read it particularly carefully because they wrote:
We would like to inform you that The Home Depot has recently launched a national in-store compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulb recycling program. We apologize that the Ferguson Home Depot store have not started the program for recycling compact fluorescent bulbs.
The problem was more than that one store. The problem was that in a given store, the left hand and the right hand were offering different pronouncements about whether they took CFLs.
But the letter did offer this concrete piece of information: “We would also like to inform you that this program was developed to recycle CFL bulbs and not fluorescent tubes.”
Yesterday the fluorescent tube in the light over our kitchen sink began flickering and had to be replaced. I’ve been planning to pass along to you the news that Home Depot now accepts burned out CFLs (or, as they prefer to call them “expired” CFLs), so that the mercury in them can be safely recycled. Before writing about that, I thought I’d find out whether Home Depot also accepts the tube type.
The answer is–as far as any fluorescent lights go–Kinda Sorta.
I don’t want to be too hard on Home Depot because at least their heart is in the right place on this issue, but so far their implementation reminds me of McCain’s advance press credential organization: the home office isn’t communicating with the on the ground operations.
The first store I called said they didn’t accept the bulbs. The second store I called, in Ferguson, said they did, but they had no idea how many of the other stores in the area are actually doing it. To find that out, they suggested I call the home office. I did. And got a lowly clerk who read me a statement from corporate HQ saying that all stores are doing it. She offered to lodge a complaint against the store that told me it wasn’t taking them.
Meanwhile, I had forgotten to find out if the Ferguson store would take the tubes as well as the CFLs, so I called back. “We don’t take them,” I was told the second time I called.
Let’s put it this way: sometime in the not too distant future, you can probably take expired CFLs in to Home Depot for recycling. Even that much is progress.
Meanwhile, let me put the whole mercury content in CFLs in perspective for you. In a blog posting titled “You’re Either with Us, or You’re with the CFLs”, Jeff McIntire-Strasburg says:
what’s the bigger danger to the American public: Al-Qaeda, or compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs)?
If you follow the conservative punditry, online or off, it’s a tough call. Today’s (April 24) “Mallard Fillmore” comic strip is just the latest example of conservatives taking aim at these energy-saving bulbs, focusing primarily on the fact that CFLs contain mercury.
McIntire-Strasburg points out how teeny the mercury content is, though–in fact, how teeny the whole issue is:
- A CFL contains about 5mg of mercury (and manufacturers are working to lower that). In comparison, a watch battery contains 25mg, the average mercury thermometer contains about 500 mg, and older mercury thermostats can contain 6-18 grams of mercury.
- Regardless of the amount of mercury, CFLs, like other mercury-containing devices, can be disposed of safely.
- The electricity produced to power an incandescent bulb from a coal-fired power plant will create 13.3 mg of mercury emissions (which is much more likely to end up in water, Mr. Tinsley).
- Finally, there’s never been a $2000 cleanup required for a CFL breaking… ENERGY STAR has clear guidelines for cleaning up a broken CFL. There’s probably more danger of mercury poisoning from a tuna sandwich than from a broken CFL.
So, why all the fuss? You don’t have to read very far into any of the above-linked examples to realize that publications like WND, and commentators like Milloy, Sowell, and Tinsley have a political agenda partly based in a dislike/distrust of environmentalism, and partly based in reaction to legislation banning the use of incandescents. In other words, the treehuggers are trying to take away your freedom as consumers… and undermine the free market… and toss us all into the shackles of godless communism…
When you consider that CFLs use 75 percent less energy than incandescents, I wouldn’t so much say that using CFLs is a no brainer as I would say that Tinsley, Limbaugh, et. al. are no brainers.
Tell you what: hang onto any used CFLs for a month or two. That’s what I’m going to do with that burned out fluorescent tube. (And if it gets broken in the meantime, I won’t run screaming from the house.) Home Depot will probably get its program sorted out. In fact, I think I’ll mail a copy of this posting to their corporate headquarters.