Compact fluorescent lighting in Wisconsin: elevated atmospheric emission and landfill deposition post-EISA implementation

Waste Manag Res. 2013 Jul;31(7):764-72. doi: 10.1177/0734242X13485865. Epub 2013 Apr 30.

Abstract

The majority of states in the USA, including Wisconsin, have been affected by elevated air, soil and waterborne mercury levels. Health risks associated with mercury increase from the consumption of larger fish species, such as Walleye or Pike, which bio-accumulate mercury in muscle tissue. Federal legislation with the 2011 Mercury and Air Toxics Standards and the Wisconsin legislation on mercury, 2009 Wisconsin Act 44, continue to aim at lowering allowable levels of mercury emissions. Meanwhile, mercury-containing compact fluorescent lights (CFL) sales continue to grow as businesses and consumers move away from energy intensive incandescent light bulbs. An exchange in pollution media is occurring as airborne mercury emissions from coal-burning power plants, the largest anthropogenic source of mercury, are being reduced by lower energy demand and standards, while more universal solid waste containing mercury is generated each time a CFL is disposed. The treatment of CFLs as a 'universal waste' by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) led to the banning of non-household fluorescent bulbs from most municipal solid waste. Although the EPA encourages recycling of bulbs, industry currently recycles fluorescent lamps and CFLs at a rate of only 29%. Monitoring programs at the federal and state level have had only marginal success with industrial and business CFL recycling. The consumer recycling rate is even lower at only 2%. A projected increase in residential CFL use in Wisconsin owing to the ramifications of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 will lead to elevated atmospheric mercury and landfill deposition in Wisconsin.

Keywords: CFL; Compact fluorescent lights; energy independence; mercury vapor emissions; recycling.

MeSH terms

  • Fluorescence
  • Lighting*
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Wisconsin