Recycling CFLs, And Tacky Dolls

Jade Moon
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Wednesday - February 18, 2009
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Every once in a while I get an e-mail from a concerned reader asking what to do when it’s time to get rid of those CFLs. I wrote a column a while back explaining that even though they do contain a teeny amount of mercury, the state Department of Health says it’s OK to dispose of them in the trash.

But if you’re like me, you would rather recycle. So I’m happy to tell you that you now have another option, and it’s easy. Just take your old CFLs to Home Depot. The folks there told me you can drop off the bulbs at the return counter. Home Depot, in turn, will hand them over to PSC, a local environmental services company. Rahim Mohideen, customer service representative for PSC, says they ship the compact fluorescents to a recycling plant in Kent, Wash.

The Environmental Protection Agency says that even though CFLs contain a small amount of mercury, it makes environmental sense to use them. The EPA says, “Virtually all components of a fluorescent bulb can be recycled. The metal end caps, glass tubing, mercury and phosphor powder can all be separated and reused. Recyclers often sell the metallic portions as scrap metal. The recycled glass can be remanufactured into other glass products. The mercury can be recycled into new fluorescent light bulbs and other mercury-containing devices.”


Those of you who can’t take the time to make the trek to Home Depot can throw your bulbs in the trash. The DOH points out that the amount of mercury in a CFL is less than the size of the tip of a pen. The DOH encourages you to wrap the bulbs in sealable plastic bags so if they break in the trash can or Dumpster or after they are picked up, the chances of mercury affecting the surrounding area or your trash guys are reduced. In other words, be thoughtful.

Although sales of CFLs have tapered off lately, people who have not switched will most likely have to come around eventually. That’s because a federal law passed in late 2007 calls for the elimination of inefficient light bulbs by the year 2012; by the year 2014, fluorescent bulbs will almost entirely replace incandescents on store shelves.

Under the Energy Independence and Security Act, people still will have choices for their lighting, such as efficient incandescent/halogens, but all bulbs will have to comply with the new, tough federal standards.

three star

On another topic, the Sweet Sasha and Marvelous Malia doll controversy somewhat resolved itself the very week my column came out. The Ty doll company decided to pull the dolls from their shelves and rename them. A wise decision, but it doesn’t erase the original tackiness of their attempt to capitalize on the Obama girls’ popularity while disingenuously denying they were doing so.

I did receive some interesting e-mails from women who could relate to my point about the lack of doll diversity in our childhoods. And one pointed out: “Are you aware that these dolls depicting an 8-year-old and a 10-year-old - little girls - have right under their cute little tops fully developed breasts ... not to mention their distorted lips???? And then the audacity of the company to suggest that the names were purely coincidental ... lying is such a pervasive art now ... As one who works with and for children of all ages to create and allow them a childhood, I believe we need to recognize and work toward putting an end to this obsessive sexualization of everything ... but especially our keiki, who, as I am sure you know, are exploited on an unprecedented scale.”

Thanks, Pat. I know mothers who are constantly struggling to define acceptability when it comes to their daughters’clothes. So many of them hate the skimpy, sexy little outfits prevalent today.

The great thing about Malia and Sasha (the girls, not the dolls) is that they are ordinary kids who dress in cute yet sensible clothes, proving that girls don’t have to flaunt anything but their minds and personalities in order to be popular.

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