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Hazardous Waste
by Jack Wellman
2008-07-12 08:44:33
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The nation, indeed the whole world, is experiencing an energy crisis. But it is also suffering from a major pollution problem.   What to do with mounting piles of hazardous waste, rejected by both the trash service and the recycling center.  The energy crisis has caused many people to buy the new longer life bulbs. 

For example, GE has an 8,000 hour life bulb that is "guaranteed for 5 years!" With the recent storms that produced power outages and power fluctuations, many of these 8,000 hour bulbs managed about 8,000 minutes. Not to mention every nightlight in the house. 

GEligthing.com was of absolutely no help in what to do with the old bulbs containing mercury.  They only referred me to another website, the non-profit lamprecycle.org.   The primary and very real concern was not satisfied by GE, concerning what to do with the burned out bulbs? 
But there is good reason not to just throw them in the trash.  Here’s why. These bulbs contain liquid mercury, which is obviously very toxic, and can not simply be thrown in the trash. The ramifications of mercury getting into the water table or in run off are quite serious. How many have already been thrown in the trash by unaware consumers? There certainly have had to be some.

The only warning on the label about mercury is "Lamp Contains mercury". The website they recommend for recycling is of no use to local consumers [www.lamprecycle.org]. It said: "When a lamp is broken it must be placed inside the original container (if you didn‘t throw it away already!). This container must be closed, structurally sound and lacking any evidence of spillage. Guidance on proper methods of handling broken fluorescent lamps is available from the US EPA and from many state agencies and local health and environmental authorities." The EPA's website only referred me back to my state, which they deemed "the next step of action to take".  [One get's the feeling of the buck passing
The nearest facility to my home that takes hazardous waste, is in the next county.  The Sedgwick County Household Hazardous Waste Facility in Wichita, Kansas offers a way to get rid of old chemicals, poisons, solvents, even fluorescent lamp with ballasts and tubes (which contain cancer causing PCBs).  This facility is intended to prevent hazardous materials from getting into the waste water systems, groundwater and from polluting the environment.  But you must be a resident of their county to participate, even though most of these chemicals were purchased from the metropolitan area.  How ironic! 

"We'll sell them to you, but you'll have to figure out what to do with what you don't use...not our problem".  So I contacted state of Kansas’ waste disposal office for details. The Kansas website link under "Recycling Household Lamps" sent me to a manual, in a PDF file format. And the nearest office is in Topeka with only a phone number listed for help (785-296-1600).   
Here is a list of all Mercury-containing light bulbs:
Advanced Lighting Technologies Inc.
EYE Lighting International of N.A., Inc.
Feit Electric Company, Inc.
GE Consumer & Industrial, Lighting
Halco Lighting Technologies
Light Sources Inc.
Osram Sylvania, Inc.
Panasonic Corporation of North America
Philips Electronics
Ruud Lighting Inc.
SLI Lighting
Technical Consumer Products, Inc.
Ushio America, Inc.
Welch Allyn, Inc.
Westinghouse Lighting International

I checked with the local Belle Plaine recycling guru, and she said the city can not recycle the extended-life light bulbs that contain mercury, plus a number of other household items deemed hazardous. Harry Truman, where "the buck stops here" is a faint, distant memory.  The local buck passed me back to the original [where I had begun] www.lamprecycle.org, which explains why I began to feel dizzy from my 360 degree turn.  It's almost as if I had been recycled while my hazardous waste remained.
These earth-friendly, energy saving 8,000 hour light bulbs may have advantages, but do the risks outweigh them? Who’s going to save an old bulb package for 5 years and even then, where do you properly dispose of them?  We can't store them around the house and we can't throw them in the trash.  Look under your sink, in the garage, in the shed...what do you do with all these hazardous materials and chemicals, which left alone, provide only a risk to human health? 

What if they eat through their containers and spill?  Sulphuric acid, hydrochloric acid, acetone, solvents, and....mercury are in nearly every home.  So whose responsibility is it?  Is it the old Latin axiom, "let the buyer beware" or should the business be under some obligation to provide a means to recycle hazardous materials that they sold in the first place?

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Jack2008-07-12 18:02:05
Giving credit where it is due to the Latin "Caveat emptor", or "Let the buyer beward".

I feel that drilling in the arctic areas, drilling more offshore, etc. is also a short term bailout, bad for the environment in the long term. The amounts of salt water that are often pumped into these wells, forces the oil out of the ground, yes, but it also leaves behind a non-usuable water-table (mixed with polluted salt waters, oils, lubricants, etc.)and reders the ground around the soil sterile and thus useless. {often times old abandoned wells are left, sometimes uncaped, and the salt water rises to the ground surface].

This mentality is summed up nicely in the famous war statement: "Damn the torpedos". In this case, it is oil at any cost; in effect a war on the world no less formadable that Orsen Wells.

Jack2008-07-12 18:07:56
How often in history have I seen the cause of many of these wars, as stated in James 4:1-2. "From where do wars come from? Do they not come from hence?...we kill and desire to have, and cannot obtain...[so]we fight and war..." This has been both literal war between nations and between people and the earth (in our desperate search for oil).

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