by Susan Sharon
Maine Public Radio news story
As a member of the ECOMaine recycling board, Travis Wagner says his interest in CFLs was piqued when someone made an off-hand remarK about the low rate of CFL recycling. In addition to his work with the 21 municipalities involved in waste issues with ECOMaine, agner is also an associate professor of enivronmental science and policy at the University of Southern Maine. His research field is electronic waste and recycling. And so very quickly a study was hatched.
“The study involved looking at, through a survey, Maine residents that actually have compact flourescent lights (CFLs). We conducted an online survey and we were able to get 520 responses and through that we started looking at the data to try to figure out what factors were involved in the low recycling rate.”>br />
Based on the survey, Wagner learned that nearly half of all respondents have ten or more CFLs in use in their homes. Most people said they bought them for energy conservation because CFLs last up to four times longer than regular bulbs. But when it comes to recycling. only 23 percent said they did. About 30 percent said they threw the lightbulbs out, even though most people acknolwedged that CFLs contain small amounts of harmful mercury and even though Maine law prohibits their disposal. Another big problem: More than 60 percent of respondents said they did not know where to take the burned out bulbs.
“People want to do the right thing. They know that there is some problem with CFLs but they’re just not sure what to do or even if CFLs are recyclable – and even if they are, where do they go?”>br />
But Wagner’s study also found that only about a quarter of Maine municipalities have a collection point for used CFLs.
“It’s vitally important that municipal transfer stations be a part of the CFL recycling solution. I mean most people when they think of dropping their trash off somewhere, they think of going to the dump.”>br />
Matt Prindiville is the clean production project director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine which has been working to expand the use of energy efficient lighting in Maine. Prindiville says the results of the study are not surprising.
“What it does suggest to me is that we need to do a whole lot more public education and outreach.”>br />
Evelyn deFrees, spokesperson for Efficiency Maine says the study contains useful data. As part of the Maine Public Utilities Commission the program promotes energy efficiency efforts and has worked with trade groups and retail stores to to set up CFL collection sites around the state.
“I think the study speaks to the issues of how one could improve recycling rates over time.”>br />
Legislation adopted in Maine this year requires CFL manufacturers to come up with an expanded education and collection plan by the first of the year. Wagner says collection locations