Oregon’s legislature will once again consider a proposal to reduce mercury in compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs).
The proposal – introduced on Wednesday by the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee – is less restrictive than a failed 2011 bill that would have made it illegal to dispose of the bulbs in landfills and required manufacturers to pay for CFL recycling, reports Oregon Live.
The new version would limit mercury content to 3.5 milligrams for all CFLs sold in the state, as well as imposing a cap on mercury content for linear fluorescent bulbs, the proposal reads. If passed, the bill would also ask state agencies to use bulbs with minimal mercury content and require the Department of Environmental Quality to recommend a new CFL recycling method by Oct. 1.
The content restrictions may eliminate some CFL producers from the Oregon market, but many CFL brands have already reduced mercury to 3.5 milligrams or less.
The mercury content in CFLs is fairly small overall – about 4 milligrams per bulb on average compared to a whopping 500 milligrams in older thermometers, according to the EPA. And when compared to traditional incandescents, CFLs actually result in less mercury in the environment.
Most power plants emit small doses of mercury into the atmosphere to produce electricity. So, a 13-watt, 8,000-hour CFL will save 376 kilowatts of energy over its lifetime, avoiding 4.3 milligrams of mercury, according to the EPA.
If the bulb goes to a landfill, mercury emissions savings would drop a bit to 3.9 milligrams – making recycling these bulbs even more important, the EPA said. Check out the EPA’s CFL disposal guide, or use Earth911 to find a recycler near you.
If you’re worried about using CFLs due to mercury content, switch to mercury-free LED light bulbs, which actually last up to 10 times longer than their fluorescent counterparts.