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Donate or recycle those old, unused light bulbs

Being reminded by my Pacific Power statement today brought my question to mind. I have lived in this house four years and only changed a light bulb once. Now I'm replacing the old bulbs with new energy-saving bulbs. My question is, what do I do with the 14 light bulbs I have in my utility room? They are all unused and could be used by someone else.

— L.M., Medford

Since you were reminded by your power bill, we took your question to a man who can literally light up a room: Monte Mendenhall, regional community manager for Pacific Power.

Mendenhall says you could give your unused incandescent bulbs to a charity such as Habitat for Humanity, but also need to consider that passing on those energy-draining bulbs to someone else doesn't help in promoting wiser energy use in the region. Let your conscience be your guide, L.M.

While we were at it, we asked what we should do with old light bulbs if we want to recycle them. He pointed us to a couple of options:

  • Home Depot has launched a free program to recycle all compact fluorescent light bulbs at its stores across the nation. The CFLs should not be thrown in the trash because they contain tiny amounts of mercury that could leach into the soil and groundwater at landfills.
  • Rogue Transfer and Recycling will recycle light bulbs of all types at its site at 8001 Table Rock Road, but for a price. Straight fluorescent tubes are 50 cents a foot, incandescent bulbs are 50 cents each and compact fluorescent bulbs are $1.50 each.

If you have the old-style incandescent light bulbs that have died, they can be disposed of in the regular trash, although a good safety precaution is to wrap them in paper to protect others in your household and disposal workers.

There is a school of thought, L.M., that you should use up or give away your old-style light bulbs rather than throwing them away because of the energy and resources that have already been used in making them. Plus, it will slow down their inevitable arrival at your local landfill. Not the preference of Pacific Power (why are the lights suddenly dimming in our office as we write this?) but something to consider.

If you're buying new bulbs, the CFL versions make sense, both in helping extend the region's energy supply and in helping out your wallet in the long run.

According to the Center for Environmental Studies at Brown University, the average household can reduce its energy budget by $12 to $20 a month by using compact fluorescent bulbs.

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. We're sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.