Since You Asked — Environmentally friendly?

The Oregon Energy Trust recently sent us the new DuraBright light bulbs to help save on energy and be more "environmentally friendly," which I thoroughly support. However, I noticed on the package in very small print that these bulbs (made in China) contain mercury and they should be disposed of according to local, state and federal laws. With mercury one of the leading causes of water pollution, why are these bulbs considered more "environmentally friendly" than the older type bulbs. Why are disposal methods not required to be in large bold print and public notices aired on the news, so the consumer can make informed decisions on their use and disposal?

— George B., Medford

Unfortunately it seems mercury vapor is integral to the function of fluorescent lighting. As for how green they are, the mercury is a trade-off, George. The federal government says if every American traded just one incandescent bulb for a compact fluorescent, it would save enough electricity to power 3 million homes for a year and cut greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to a year's pollution from 800,000 cars.

Although each fluorescent bulb contains just a wee little bit of mercury (about 5 milligrams, or about 1/100th of the amount in those old mercury thermometers), they shouldn't be disposed of in regular household trash, according to, a Web site maintained by the U.S. Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency.

The mercury is safe and contained so long as the bulbs remain intact. So don't twist or untwist them holding the twirled glass part. Twist from the base.

Those agencies recommend a site called for finding information about recycling or disposing of hazardous household waste, but we got the skinny for you and found a better local site.

A grant to Ashland Sanitary and Recycling allows customers to drop off up to 10 fluorescent bulbs, compact or tubes, free at the Ashland Recycling Center on Water Street. Ashland Sanitary's regular fee is 30 cents a foot for tubes and $1.25 for the compact bulbs at the Valley View Transfer Station or if you have more than 10 at the Water Street center. Crews also will pick them up at customers' homes for a $10 pick-up fee, plus the regular disposal fee, if any.

Rogue Disposal & Recycling and Southern Oregon Sanitation don't collect the bulbs, but both companies recommended Allied Environmental Services, 407 Boardman St., Medford; and Garris Environmental Inc., 535 Industrial Circle, White City, that will take them. The going rate at those companies we called is 20 cents a foot for tubes and around $1 for the bulbs.

To find out where to get rid of lots of stuff you wouldn't otherwise throw in the garbage, visit online for a recycling directory.

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501

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