Send a CFL to your congressman (Bumped)

A reader reminded me that I had promised to send defunct CFL bulbs to my Congressman, so I’ve dug the latest failure out of the kitchen trash can and will send it off to Jimbo in Washington, labeled “hazardous waste’. Blogging may be suspended while I arrange bail.

UPDATE: rethinking the subject, I may send it anonymously.

UPDate II: Since I’ve been Instalanched, I thought I’d combine my two posts.

I’m a little nervous about mailing off, all by my lonesome, a lightbulb that the DEP has declared a hazardous substance – a few months in jail could be a bummer. But if voters from all over the country sent them to Washington – how about September 30th? – anonymously, we’d shut down the Capitol while hazmat teams ran around like chickens. I’m sending out a link to this suggestion to all my fellow whacko bloggers, in the hope that readers with dead, burned-out CFLs will save them and, after wiping off fingerprints, mail them on the 30th. Here’s where to find the address of your Congressman.


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46 responses to “Send a CFL to your congressman (Bumped)

  1. If it is hazardous waste then why are they forcing us to buy them and put them in our homes?

    Mailing them to your congressman is a seriously great idea to force the issue one way or the other.

  2. Anonymous


  3. egoist

    Perhaps you can advise Jimbo on which screw-end (metallic small-dia vs glass large-dia) he can rotate into a certain socket, while you’re at it.

  4. Ian

    CFLs are temporary solutions that create a serious disposal problem. The key solution is to separate the “ballast”, which is the heavy bit at the base, from the fluorescent tube, the curly bit. Then when it fades you just replace the little curly glass bit. Cheap! The “ballast”, being a bit of solid state electronics, may last forever (when did your TV last die?) and would rarely end up in the trash. The combined CFL unit is a marketing flonk so it just plugs in. LEDs may be the way, later when cheaper…

  5. Patrick Carroll

    I’m buying LED lights instead. Sam’s Club has regular great deals on LED lights, and since they generally last tens of thousands of hours, a given light might be the last one you ever buy.

  6. Anonymous

    Does the bulb have to arrive intact?

  7. Peg

    Someone says it might be a federal crime to ship this junk to Congress – but it’s hunkey dorey for them to force us to use ’em in our homes? Gotta love our legislators!

    Seems to me that this is yet one more case of “fixing” what was not broke.

  8. They’ll never get there. Packages sent to Congressman get sidetracked and inspected/destroyed. THEM, DHS takes care of.

  9. Fat Man

    Don’t send him a lightbulb. Vote him out on 11/2.

  10. “Okay, but a million light bulbs will at least give them a problem.”

    Exactly. 10,000,000 or 100,000,000 would be even better.

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  12. Bill N

    Don’t Congresscritters have a local office? Bring it yourself and leave it on the counter. Let THEM dispose of the hazardous waste and see how expensive it is.

  13. max


    I don’t know how you got the idea that the mercury (the hazardous material part) is in the ballast but it isn’t. Mercury get vaporized in the tube part and emits UV light which is absorbed by the phosphor coating (usually a nice white powder) and turned into visible light by that powder. All that separating the ballast from the tube does is lower the number of CFL bulb failures due to faulty ballasts. Not that faulty ballasts are the non-problem you imply, but usually the phosphors die in the combined CFL bulbs before the ballasts wear out.

    As for the price, I hate to break it to you but the direct manufacturing costs of just about any mass produced item are an small fraction of the consumer price. The “curly bit” winds up costing the consumer almost as much as a combined CFL bulb. Most of the consumer price is based on the costs of warehousing, handling, shipping and similar which cost the same for both types.

    I really don’t want to be too critical and discourage you, thinking outside of set patterns is a good thing. There are advantages to the separate ballast&tube design, but they are manufacturing side advantages not consumer side.

  14. JIMV

    If an act inconveniences or embarrasses a Politician, odds are it has been made illegal by that politician. Putting that aside, does anyone anywhere actually go through all the process to dispose of those things? ….didn’t think so.

  15. WJ Alden

    1) Your congressman will never receive it.

    2) Prior to his *not* receiving it, (mostly) innocent mailmen will be forced to handle an unmarked, improperly shipped hazardous material, jeopardizing their health.

    3) There are lots of materials you routinely use in your home which are a potential health risk, either in your home or in transit: gasoline, paint thinner, perfume, batteries, liquid bleach, ad infinitum.

    4) It’s still a clever idea, but how ’bout a better one: the GOP promises, among other things, to re-legalize incandescent bulbs if they’re given back Congress. It’s simple, it’s easy to understand, and it strikes a chord with voters. So long as they have more serious proposals to go along with it (immigration enforcement, anyone?), it’ll be effective.

  16. wetgfvsjb2b

    I stopped using cfl’s. I had two identical lamps, in one I used a cfl and the other I didn’t. These lamps had plastic shades and the one with a cfl developed cracks in the shade which eventually crumbled. The other one didn’t. I suspect the cfl’s give off UV light which can degrade plastic. UV light can harm your eyes and give you cancer. That’s why I took out all cfl’s in my house and went back to incandescent bulbs.

  17. Cannon Asesrb

    Ummm… Why are you sending the Canadian Football League to your Congresscritter?

    On the other hand, this is a perfect example of Bush 41’s thousand points of compact fluorescent light.

  18. horse jock

    Ban the bulbs.

  19. Koblog

    Compact CFLs are a complete joke.
    I always write the date, price and “guaranteed life” on the lamp’s base with a Sharpie so I can document how long these overpriced, poor-light-quality, toxic pieces of junk actually last
    They claim 7-9 years. They actually last far less, fade over time and generate electronic noise that bothers AM radio.
    They, like Barney Frank. suck.

  20. Inagua

    WJ Alden,

    “…the GOP promises, among other things, to re-legalize incandescent bulbs if they’re given back Congress.”

    The GOP has very limited credibility on the issue because many GOP members voted for the ban, and because Bush signed it into law.

  21. Bob

    What’s a CFL bulb? Seriously, although I know what a CFL bulb is, I’ve never bought one and don’t plan to until they make non-CFL bulbs illegal (which probably won’t be that long). My Congressman (D) is already a dim bulb so I don’t think he’ll want or need a dead CFL bulb.

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  23. Anonymous

    there is a CFL disposal facility at 175 Valley Road, Cos Cob, CT.

    just leave them on the doorstep with a note.

  24. RetiredE9

    What if they are not burned out? I’ve got three I put into my home office. They lasted (for me) about a week before I pulled them out.

    If we send working CFLs would they still be “hazardous waste”?

  25. CaptDMO

    Possible solutions.
    1. Don’t send them through the mail.
    UPS/Fed Ex costs (much)more, but will eliminate
    any “…through the US Mail” legal issues. Inquire about appropriate labeling.

    2. A “collection center” could amass enough to justify a common carrier “Less Than Load” shipment.

    3.If you’re REALLY paranoid, wash with **** polish remover, then spray with **-40.

    Of course sending stuff through a shipper generates a trail, and the chances you’d get all the DNA/Print stuff off all the appropriate packaging is slim.
    IMHO-Better to deliver it with your name “writ large”, so “the crown” can’t possibly miss it. (Kinda’ like John Handcock)

  26. CaptDMO

    Hey! Is GE connected to producing any of these mandatory CFL’s? Are we “saving” electricity, currently available to all willing to pay for it, and many who don’t, because the “infrastructure” can’t handle charging a nation of mandatory (ie. GM) electric cars, without the appropriate “rationing”?
    How many new US nuclear reactors would “offset” the price/impact of CFL mercury, and ballast PrCir ickies, porcelain base manufacturing energy/impact vs. Incandescent, in…say…15 years? 5 years w/o gub’mint/eco “fees and over-sight”.
    We could all revert to whale/slut/olive oil for lighting I suppose.

  27. tag

    why dont we send them to the EPA with some lead paint chips and chinese drywall.

  28. WJ Alden

    ** “The GOP has very limited credibility on the issue because many GOP members voted for the ban, and because Bush signed it into law.” **

    So re-legalizing incandescents will be a GOP rejection of the Bush years? Double bonus!

  29. RU Kiddingme

    @Thomas Edison:If it is hazardous waste then why are they forcing us to buy them and put them in our homes?”
    You don’t honestly think anybody in any government cares about you or your health until election day?

  30. RobinGoodfellow

    “What if they are not burned out? I’ve got three I put into my home office. They lasted (for me) about a week before I pulled them out.

    If we send working CFLs would they still be “hazardous waste”?”

    It is not a hazardous waste if it is not a waste (I know that sounds redundant, but that’s how the law is written). But it still might be a hazardous substance. It is illegal to ship many hazardous substances through the US mail. However, I think a working CFL would be a DOT hazard class 9, consumer commodity (ORM-D), and might be allowed to be shipped. Actually, if you check the MSDS, the bulb might not even be hazardous at all, depending on the manufacturer.

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  34. dju316

    Improper disposal of compact fluorescent light bulbs is very dangerous to your family and to the environment. In some states, it is illegal to put these light bulbs in your trash.

    Send your used CFL bulbs to your Senator or Congressman in Washington. Or send them to the EPA.

    You can find your Senator’s mailing address at

    You can find your Congressman’s mailing address at

    Or send your used light bulbs to EPA headquarters in Washington:

    Environmental Protection Agency
    Ariel Rios Building
    1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
    Washington, DC 20460

    Isn’t your family’s health worth the small postage cost? Don’t you want to help save the planet from this environmental nightmare? You’ll sleep better at night knowing your deadly mercury-containing light bulbs are with the experts in our nation’s capital. Send your light bulbs to Washington!

    For more information:

  35. Pingback: September 30 is Send Your Light Bulbs To Washington Day! « Send Your Light Bulbs To Washington

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  37. dju316

    From the FAQ page at

    Q. Will the Post Office mail packages containing compact fluorescent light bulbs?

    A. Yes, and they’re proud of it.

    This is from the Post Office’s 2008 Annual Report: “We’re working with other companies, agencies and organizations in mail-back programs that recycle and dispose of small electronics, compact fluorescent lamps, and discarded or expired pharmaceuticals.” ( )

    This is from their 2007 Comprehensive Statement of Operations: “Through partnerships with business and government, mail is being used to properly dispose of products that might otherwise be harmful to the environment including computer equipment, printer supplies, cell phones, rechargeable batteries, compact fluorescent light bulbs, and prescription drugs.” ( )

    Q. Will Federal Express mail packages containing compact fluorescent light bulbs.

    A. Yes.

    Q. Will UPS mail packages containing compact fluorescent light bulbs.

    A. Yes.

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  39. ThinkingOutLoud

    Send them along with a ball bearing. Clean up on aisle 3.

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