In the name of conservation, California is correctly urging consumers to use energy-efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs, and leading the nation on an important environmentalist step.
But there is a problem: What to do with bulbs once they burn out, as they all will? Fluorescent bulbs contain small amounts of mercury, a highly toxic heavy metal.
People should not toss the bulbs into the garbage, lest they make their way to local dumps. But as most consumers have found, there is no easy way to dispose of them in an ecologically sound manner.
In too many areas, people must drive to the local landfills and other out-of-the-way sites to get rid of the old bulbs. The easiest way to find disposal sites in your area is to do a computer search for "fluorescent bulb recycling" and name the town where you live. SMUD's website offers suggestions. Sacramento has several locations. Davis, by contrast, has few.
A related problem is one of cost. Manufacturers don't want to add an extra charge for recycling, because that might discourage people from buying them. Some hardware stores that once accepted them have ended the practice because they had to pay disposal costs of up to 50 cents per bulb.
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