Thanks to good stewards from 17 households in our community, the Stockton United Methodist Go Green Team collected 62 florescent tubes, 28 compact florescent lamps, and 59 incandescent bulbs for responsible recycling on America Recycles Day. Our collective stewardship kept at least 1,072 milligrams of toxic mercury, a world-wide contaminant, out of our environment.

Virtually all materials in all kinds of light bulbs can be recycled. What a difference we could make if all of us recycled all of our bulbs.

Throwing mercury-containing bulbs into the dumpster often results in mini-explosions which some find exhilarating. However, when bulbs burst, they release an invisible, odorless, toxic mercury vapor which can cause serious health injury and may be lethal when people breathe and inhale it into their lungs. Longer term, processes in the environment convert it into methylmercury which bioaccumulates up the food chain. Collecting and reusing mercury from bulbs keeps it from escaping into our environment and reduces the demand for mining new mercury, reducing environmental damage at mining sites. It is much better to recycle the valuable, toxic mercury than to send it on the precarious journey to our landfills.

No federal law exists to recycle mercury-containing bulbs, yet many municipalities and at least seven states mandate recycling them and ban them from landfills to protect the health of people and the planet.

This was our Go Green Team’s fifth America Recycles Day drive. This Keep America Beautiful national initiative is the only nationally recognized day dedicated to promoting and celebrating recycling in the United States. Each year, on and in the weeks leading into Nov. 15, thousands of communities across the country participate by promoting environmental citizenship and taking action to increase and improve recycling in America. Diverse organizations collected a wide range of waste streams for recycling; we think we were the only one to collect mercury-containing light bulbs.

Choose to recycle all kinds of burned-out bulbs. Designate a sturdy box in a safe place to collect them. If you missed this event, deliver florescent tubes, metal halide, incandescent and halogen bulbs to the Computer Recycling Center, 528 N. Prince Lane, Springfield, fee: $1-$2.50/mercury-containing bulb. Deliver CFLs, sealed one per Ziploc bag, to any Lowe’s or Home Depot, no fee. Or save them for next year’s SUMC bulb recycling drive. For safety, we cannot store them in the church. No recycling business accepts broken bulbs; wrap them and dispose of in the trash.

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