Thursday, April 18, 2013

Why Complaints About Fluorescent Bulbs in Landfills Are Useless

I'm constantly amazed by just how many people don't understand why fluorescent bulbs always end up in the landfills.

People like to say it's due to laziness:

"Those things are toxic!  There's no reason not to dispose of them properly!  
They can even be recycled!"

That's brilliant, Sherlock.  You're  probably also on a first name basis with everyone at the recycling company, aren't you?  There's a very simple reason for why this judgmental explanation doesn't work for many people.  Actually, a couple of reasons.

1.  Lack of information.

Unlike door-to-door recycling, fluorescent bulb recycling and disposal information isn't clearly pointed out in all communities.  You have to search for it.  The standard person doesn't immediately run to the computer to search for places that take care of these bulbs when they go out.  They set it aside, replace it, then go on with life.

Eventually, they to move away.  The light that was put aside is still there.  There are also several other things that need to be disposed of.  The person still hasn't done the research to find a place, and it's just one light.

And there's a lot that still needs to be done while moving.

It gets tossed.

2.  Lack of Facilities.

Seriously.  This reason is the one that really bugs me.

Why?

Because there's no excuse for this reason to even exist.  And yet it does.

See, most cities have easy drop-off places.  Home Depot, for example, allows you to drop off your fluorescent tubes for free.  Just walk in, hand it over, and go away.

Easy.

Other places, though, don't have it so easy.  Where I live, for example, you have to pay to get florescent lights recycled.  It's not a lot... only fifteen cents.

But you still have to pay.  Sure, that doesn't seem like a huge price.  I mean, you're protecting the environment and doing the right thing, right?

Not so fast...

Fifteen cents means nothing to most people, but what about people that live on minimum wage?  Minimum wage puts you below the poverty line.  Paying that fifteen cents can mean not giving your child a special treat that week.

That fifteen cents is equal to half a can of tomato sauce (on sale) - the sauce you could have used to make spaghetti for your family.  But instead you're going to use it so that you can "do the right thing"?

Somehow, I don't think so.

And that's why people that complain about those that don't recycle their bulbs really gets to me.  If you want to ensure that people do the right thing, you have to ensure they have the same ability to do it that you have.

Want to change things and ensure that fluorescent lights get recycled?

  • Take action to make information about recycling well known to everyone.  Bring it to the attention of the media that this information isn't widely available.
  • Talk to your city council about making fluorescent recycling free.  You can't expect people to do something if there's no incentive to do it.
  • Do you know someone that disposes of fluorescent bulbs in an unsafe manner?  Instead of judging them, offer to take the bulbs off of their hands.  If fifteen cents is such a small and inconsequential amount, after all, you should be willing to pay the cost for them.
Judging a person does nothing to solve a problem.  

Being proactive and stopping that problem from occurring in the first place is far more responsible.

There are many ways to help reduce the incidence of fluorescent waste.  I'm sure you can come up with several more that I haven't mentioned.

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