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Since You Asked: To fluoresce or not to fluoresce ...

I just bought a pack of energy-saving fluorescent bulbs, and like the Cat in the Hat, it seems that efforts to clean up one mess create another. You see, apparently the bulbs contain mercury, a mighty toxin. It says on the box to dispose of them "properly." What is the "proper" way to dispose of these bulbs in Jackson County? Although presumably I won't need to do that for another five years, if the claims of longevity are accurate.

— Mary B., White City

Way to take care of the planet, Mary! We fellow Earth dwellers appreciate your efforts ... we think. You're right about that mercury issue. It's made us think twice about the new bulbs.

Unfortunately it seems mercury vapor is integral to the function of fluorescent lighting, so the problem isn't going to go away soon. Although each fluorescent bulb contains just a wee little bit of mercury, they shouldn't be disposed of in regular household trash, according to energystar.gov, a Web site maintained by the U.S. Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Those agencies recommend a site called www.earth911.org for finding information about recycling or disposing of hazardous household waste, but it's easier to just call your garbage company. The Since You Asked environmental experts like "easy" and we like the friendly folks who helped us find local answers to your question.

Ashland Sanitary and Recycling has a grant that enables customers to drop off up to 10 fluorescent bulbs — both the compact kind and the tubes — free at the Ashland Recycling Center on Water Street. Ashland Sanitary's regular fee for the bulbs is 30 cents a foot for tubes and $1.25 for the compact bulbs at the Valley View Transfer Station or if you have more than 10 at the Water Street center. Crews also will pick them up at customers' homes for a $10 pick-up fee, plus the regular disposal fee.

Rogue Disposal & Recycling and Southern Oregon Sanitation don't collect the bulbs, but the customer service crews at both companies dipped into the Jackson County Recycling Directory to find answers.

The directory lists Allied Environmental Services, 407 Boardman St., Medford; American Appliance Recyclers, 2645 Ave. G, White City; and Garris Environmental Inc., 535 Industrial Circle, White City, as other local places that will collect and dispose of fluorescent bulbs. The going rate at those companies we called is 20 cents a foot for tubes and around $1 for the bulbs.

If you want to access the local recycling directory to find the best way to get rid of all sorts of junk — from electronics and appliances to tires and yard debris — it's available online at www.roguesmart.org.

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by e-mail to youasked@mailtribune.com.