Use of the energy-saving compact fluorescent light bulbs has been on the rise in recent years, as more people look to reduce power use.
However, Amber Meyer Smith with Clean Wisconsin says CFLs can pose a risk to the environment when thrown away, because they contain mercury. She says landfills are not designed to capture the contaminant, which can have harmful effects on wildlife and water supplies.
Clean Wisconsin is backing legislation being considered in the state Legislature, which would ban CFLs from landfills. It would also require the companies making them to pay for recycling programs, with the goal of collecting 70-percent of burned out bulbs.
Smith says the requirement wouldn’t be too hard to implement, because many retailers are already collecting old bulbs. She says the proposed bill would simply make producers shoulder the cost of recycling programs, instead of having consumers cover the cost.
Despite the risk of mercury leaking out of broken bulbs, Smith says CFLs are still much better for the environment than standard light bulbs because they require less energy to operate. She’s says coal-based electricity releases far more mercury.
AUDIO: Andrew Beckett reports (1:08)