A few tons of toxic material never hurt anyone….right?

Posted on: June 28, 2011, by :

So I went to the City of Albuquerque’s Hazardous Waste Recycling site a few weeks ago to turn in some burned out florescent light bulbs. I had about 10 of them. I felt like I was doing the right thing since there is a small amount (approx 20 mg) of Mercury in the bulbs. Little did I know that I would get ridiculed for trying to keep a toxin out of the environment. It wasn’t a big deal to me at the time but it was quite annoying to hear the worker behind the fence at the recycling center see the bulbs and say “oh boy, florescent bulbs are really hazardous” in a sarcastic tone. Well, maybe 10 bulbs are not hazardous, but what about the hundreds of millions of bulbs that burn out every year? Is that enough for the worker to become concerned? Is 1 gram enough to be concerned with? Is 1 pound? How about the 2 to 4 tons of Mercury per year which is what the EPA estimates? Should we just put on our blinders and pretend the earth is so large that a little bit of toxic waste never hurt anybody?

Unfortunately, I have to always ask myself when are we, as a human race, going to figure out that we are not above the environment- we are a part of it. We live, breath and depend on the environment. Anything we introduce into the environment is not going to magically disappear.

So, the next time I go to recycle the florescent light bulbs, I will be sure to tape a note to the bulbs for the sarcastic worker explaining that by doing his job he is ensuring a better future for all. I encourage everyone else to do the same!