Urbana makes it easy to dispose of light bulbs with mercury
URBANA – Don't know what to do with those burned-out compact fluorescent light bulbs, which contain small amounts of dangerous mercury?
The city of Urbana has a recycling solution – but it will cost you.
Starting this week, the city's public works department, located at 706 S. Glover Ave., has begun offering for sale prepaid "Recycle-Pak" boxes, where residents can put a number of used bulbs and, when the box is full, mail it to a recycler.
The cost of a box is $15. The postage is prepaid, so when the box is full, all you need to do is seal it and mail it to the recycler, Veolia Environmental Services of Port Washington, Wis. Each box can hold six to 12 bulbs, depending on the size of the bulbs, according to Rod Fletcher, Urbana's environmental manager.
"We're just trying to provide options for people and respond to their demand," Fletcher said. "We're at least providing the opportunity for them (residents) to do the right thing."
The city is selling the boxes at its cost. Fletcher suggested that two or more families might want to split the cost of a box and share its use, as compact fluorescent light bulbs tend to burn out at a slow clip.
Compact fluorescent light bulbs contain a small amount of mercury, about 5 milligrams, or the amount that would cover the tip of a ballpoint pen. In comparison, older thermometers contain about 500 milligrams of mercury, according to Energy Star, an Energy conservation program by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy.
The mercury is an essential component of compact fluorescent lighting and is what allows the bulbs to be an efficient light source, according to Energy Star. Energy Star-qualified bulbs are highly energy-efficient, using up to 75 percent less electricity than incandescent light bulbs and lasting up to 10 times longer.
Fletcher said the city wants residents to avoid landfilling such bulbs and eventually contaminating the environment with mercury.
"In aggregate, it starts to accumulate," he said. "We're trying to provide a convenient and easy way so people don't have to dispose of these in landfills."
The city is also selling boxes to recycle 4-foot and 8-foot-long fluorscent bulbs. A box for 4-foot bulbs sells for $33 and can hold 15 one-and-one-half-inch diameter bulbs or 30 one-inch diameter bulbs. A box for 8-foot fluorscent bulbs sells for $53. It can hold 15 one-and-one-half-inch diameter bulbs or 30 one-inch diameter bulbs.
Urbana also began in late November a household battery recycling program, for both single-use and rechargeable batteries. Household batteries, including A, AA, AAA, C, D and 9-volt, are accepted at no charge. No car or truck batteries are accepted.
Drop-off sites include:
– Anita Purves Nature Center, 1505 N. Broadway Ave., U.
– Phillips Recreation Center, 505 W. Stoughton St., U. This site doesn't accept rechargeable batteries.
– Urbana City Building, 400 S. Vine St., U.
– Urbana Free Library, 210 W. Green St., U.
– Urbana Public Works, 706 S. Glover Ave., U.
So far, the city has received 780 pounds of batteries for recycling, according to city recycling coordinator Courtney Rushforth.
"It's been a good response," she said.
The city has worked out an arrangement with Interstate All Battery Center of Champaign-Urbana, 2504 N. Mattis Ave., C, where Interstate recycles the household batteries in return for the city giving the business the six to 10 lead-acid batteries the city's replaces each month for its vehicle fleet.