Wednesday, February 28, 2007

House and Home Part 2 - Lighting

Having settled the question of dishwashers once and for all (to my own satisfaction anyway), I turned my attention to those new religious icons, compact fluorescent lights (CFLs - nothing to do with the Canadian Football league).
After blanket media coverage, pretty much everyone now knows that CFLs are a GOOD THING. They last much longer and use much less electricity than conventional incandescent bulbs (apparently using a CFL in place of an incandescent bulb can save an unlikely-sounding half-a-tonne of carbon dioxide over its life).
What is less well know is that they contain trace amounts of mercury, which as most people also know is a BAD THING.
Most information seems to play this down, stressing that the reduced electricity consumption actually creates less mercury pollution from coal-powered power stations which more than offsets the mercury pollution the new bulbs create in themselves (which I consider a bit of a spurious argument given that we are supposed to be phasing out fossil fuel power generation) or that a watch battery contains 5 times as much mercury as a CFL (so?).
But it seems that we should be treating them as hazardous waste, which most people I'm sure are blissfully unaware of.
This has already become an issue in Australia where the new law phasing out incandescent light bulbs is running into problems as recyclers point out that they can't be recycled (not that incandescent bulbs could ever be effectively recycled, but hey...)
Why is nothing ever simple and clear-cut?

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