Money-saving bulbs low energy bulbs? (updated)

Thomas Lifson
One of the several CFL light bulbs in my house stopped working last night. This is maybe the fourth or fifth CFL bulb in my house that has lasted less than a year, despite the claims of advocates that they have a longer life than incandescent bulbs. They certainly cost a lot more money to buy or replace, so I suspect that I have saved nothing, and may indeed be losing money. Not to mention all the energy expended in manufacturing the complex bulbs.

This is the first one to burn out since I learned that they contain 4-5 mg of mercury. I am not going to just throw it in the trash. I don't want it breaking and spewing mercury into my trash can, and certainly don't want the mercury going to a landfull, and eventually into the water table. So, I am going to have to call up the City of Berkeley and see if they have any programs to safely handle CFLs. Apparently California law only mandates that they
shall not be collected by a curbside household hazardous waste collection program unless the waste is contained in secure packaging that prevents breakage and spillage.
Berkeley, being a special place inhabited by special people, is rarely content to be as holy as everbody else, though. We'll see what they say.

In the meantime, there is progress to report in the development of a much more promising low energy technology: light-emitting diodes. The Olla Project is a European initiative to develop so-called organic light-emitting diodes capable of producing white light. Their latest press release concerns to production of a prototype. Our writing on the problematic aspects of CFLs has apparently attracted their attention, and they have been in touch with us. So we will do our best to stay on top of this far more advanced technology, which seems to have far more satisfactory prospects. There is nothing wrong and much right with saving energy. But banning the incandescent bulb is the wrong way to go. Forcing a transition to flawed and dangerous technology is always silly, though of course such top-down mandates appeal to the commissars among us.

Update: Ed Waage has done my research for me (thanks, Ed!):

Regarding your expired CFL's, The Berkeley 
website says you have to take these bulbs to a recycling center called the Community Conservation Center. Also, California law apparently states that all fluorescent bulbs, including CFL's, must be taken to a hazardous waste collection facility. There is also an interesting statistic that
there were 15,555,556 fluorescent lamps sold in California in the year 2001. According to survey results published in the report, only 0.21% of these lamps were recycled.
If you are concerned about the carbon footprint is for driving these bulbs to a collection facility, consider this. If each person took two bulbs, that is almost 8 million vehicle trips at say 10 miles each or 80 million miles per year which is about 4 million gallons of gas. Each gallon of gas produces 20 pounds of CO2 so we get 80 million pounds or 40,000 tons of CO2.
In addition, California law is (no surprises here) more stringent than Federal. Here is a FAQ snippet from The Toxic Substances Control Dept:
Even thought the lamp manufacturers say that their "green" fluorescent lamps are not hazardous waste, they really are.

We wrote the rules! All fluorescent lamps contain mercury vapor.  Some lamp manufacturers have engineered lamps that can pass the federal hazardous waste threshold, either by reducing the amount of mercury used in the lamp, or by placing materials in the lamp that help the lamp pass the federal hazardous waste tests.  We are so concerned about how toxic mercury is, that California's hazardous waste rules for lamps state that a lamp with ANY added mercury is a hazardous waste, and you must dispose of it as either hazardous or as a universal waste.
So California is more concerned about mercury than the Feds. But, because of the additional automobile trips, the stricter California standards result in more global warming (if one believes Al Gore). Maybe the Critical Mass bike riders could take on fluorescent bulb recycling as a civic project.

Update: Doug Ross helpfully unearths federal guidelines for what to do if you break a CFL bulb:

What precautions should I take when using CFLs in my home?
CFLs are made of glass and can break if dropped or roughly handled ..

How should I clean up a broken fluorescent bulb?
EPA recommends the following clean-up and disposal guidelines:

1. Open a window and leave the room (restrict access) for at least 15 minutes.
2. Remove all materials you can without using a vacuum cleaner.
* Wear disposable rubber gloves, if available (do not use your bare hands).
* Carefully scoop up the fragments and powder with stiff paper or cardboard.
* Wipe the area clean with a damp paper towel or disposable wet wipe.
* Sticky tape (such as duct tape) can be used to pick up small pieces and powder.
3. Place all cleanup materials in a plastic bag and seal it.
* If your state permits you to put used or broken CFLs in the garbage, seal the CFL in two plastic bags and put into the outside trash (if no other disposal or recycling options are available).
* Wash your hands after disposing of the bag.
4. The first time you vacuum the area where the bulb was broken, remove the vacuum bag once done cleaning the area (or empty and wipe the canister) and put the bag and/or vacuum debris, as well as the cleaning materials, in two sealed plastic bags in the outdoor trash or protected outdoor location for normal disposal.

Roughly translated, cleanup after a CFL bulb breaks is: (a) evacuate the house for a while, and then (b) clean up while wearing a traditional hazmat suit. Yes, it's... just... that... simple.

It reminds me of a Super Happy Fun Ball, updated for the Al Gore era of eco-hysteria.
Perhaps as a public service Wal-Mart and other retailers can stock hazmat suits in the light bulb section of their stores.
One of the several CFL light bulbs in my house stopped working last night. This is maybe the fourth or fifth CFL bulb in my house that has lasted less than a year, despite the claims of advocates that they have a longer life than incandescent bulbs. They certainly cost a lot more money to buy or replace, so I suspect that I have saved nothing, and may indeed be losing money. Not to mention all the energy expended in manufacturing the complex bulbs.

This is the first one to burn out since I learned that they contain 4-5 mg of mercury. I am not going to just throw it in the trash. I don't want it breaking and spewing mercury into my trash can, and certainly don't want the mercury going to a landfull, and eventually into the water table. So, I am going to have to call up the City of Berkeley and see if they have any programs to safely handle CFLs. Apparently California law only mandates that they
shall not be collected by a curbside household hazardous waste collection program unless the waste is contained in secure packaging that prevents breakage and spillage.
Berkeley, being a special place inhabited by special people, is rarely content to be as holy as everbody else, though. We'll see what they say.

In the meantime, there is progress to report in the development of a much more promising low energy technology: light-emitting diodes. The Olla Project is a European initiative to develop so-called organic light-emitting diodes capable of producing white light. Their latest press release concerns to production of a prototype. Our writing on the problematic aspects of CFLs has apparently attracted their attention, and they have been in touch with us. So we will do our best to stay on top of this far more advanced technology, which seems to have far more satisfactory prospects. There is nothing wrong and much right with saving energy. But banning the incandescent bulb is the wrong way to go. Forcing a transition to flawed and dangerous technology is always silly, though of course such top-down mandates appeal to the commissars among us.

Update: Ed Waage has done my research for me (thanks, Ed!):

Regarding your expired CFL's, The Berkeley 
website says you have to take these bulbs to a recycling center called the Community Conservation Center. Also, California law apparently states that all fluorescent bulbs, including CFL's, must be taken to a hazardous waste collection facility. There is also an interesting statistic that
there were 15,555,556 fluorescent lamps sold in California in the year 2001. According to survey results published in the report, only 0.21% of these lamps were recycled.
If you are concerned about the carbon footprint is for driving these bulbs to a collection facility, consider this. If each person took two bulbs, that is almost 8 million vehicle trips at say 10 miles each or 80 million miles per year which is about 4 million gallons of gas. Each gallon of gas produces 20 pounds of CO2 so we get 80 million pounds or 40,000 tons of CO2.
In addition, California law is (no surprises here) more stringent than Federal. Here is a FAQ snippet from The Toxic Substances Control Dept:
Even thought the lamp manufacturers say that their "green" fluorescent lamps are not hazardous waste, they really are.

We wrote the rules! All fluorescent lamps contain mercury vapor.  Some lamp manufacturers have engineered lamps that can pass the federal hazardous waste threshold, either by reducing the amount of mercury used in the lamp, or by placing materials in the lamp that help the lamp pass the federal hazardous waste tests.  We are so concerned about how toxic mercury is, that California's hazardous waste rules for lamps state that a lamp with ANY added mercury is a hazardous waste, and you must dispose of it as either hazardous or as a universal waste.
So California is more concerned about mercury than the Feds. But, because of the additional automobile trips, the stricter California standards result in more global warming (if one believes Al Gore). Maybe the Critical Mass bike riders could take on fluorescent bulb recycling as a civic project.

Update: Doug Ross helpfully unearths federal guidelines for what to do if you break a CFL bulb:

What precautions should I take when using CFLs in my home?
CFLs are made of glass and can break if dropped or roughly handled ..

How should I clean up a broken fluorescent bulb?
EPA recommends the following clean-up and disposal guidelines:

1. Open a window and leave the room (restrict access) for at least 15 minutes.
2. Remove all materials you can without using a vacuum cleaner.
* Wear disposable rubber gloves, if available (do not use your bare hands).
* Carefully scoop up the fragments and powder with stiff paper or cardboard.
* Wipe the area clean with a damp paper towel or disposable wet wipe.
* Sticky tape (such as duct tape) can be used to pick up small pieces and powder.
3. Place all cleanup materials in a plastic bag and seal it.
* If your state permits you to put used or broken CFLs in the garbage, seal the CFL in two plastic bags and put into the outside trash (if no other disposal or recycling options are available).
* Wash your hands after disposing of the bag.
4. The first time you vacuum the area where the bulb was broken, remove the vacuum bag once done cleaning the area (or empty and wipe the canister) and put the bag and/or vacuum debris, as well as the cleaning materials, in two sealed plastic bags in the outdoor trash or protected outdoor location for normal disposal.

Roughly translated, cleanup after a CFL bulb breaks is: (a) evacuate the house for a while, and then (b) clean up while wearing a traditional hazmat suit. Yes, it's... just... that... simple.

It reminds me of a Super Happy Fun Ball, updated for the Al Gore era of eco-hysteria.
Perhaps as a public service Wal-Mart and other retailers can stock hazmat suits in the light bulb section of their stores.