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EPA: Wal-Mart, Other Retailers Need to Step Up CFL Recycling Initiatives

The Environmental Protection Agency and some large businesses, including Wal-Mart, are aggressively promoting the sale of compact fluorescent light bulbs. The move is gaining momentum. Recently, California Assemblyman Lloyd Levine introduced legislation to make his state the first to ban incandescent lightbulbs. Earlier this week, Australia announced it would phase out incandescents and yesterday, Greenpeace asked India to follow Australia’s lead. 

In the wake of bad-incandescent-good-CFL exuberance, people are beginning to point out that CFLs contain mercury, a neurotoxin, and that manufacturers, retailers, and the government haven’t come up with effective ways to get Americans to recycle them, NPR reports.

There’s been little government action on this and the EPA says the agency has been urging stores that sell the bulbs to help recycle them, but most don’t.

Wal-Mart, which has set a goal of selling 100 million CFLs by 2008, has been slow to answer the EPA’s call. “We are working with Wal-Mart on it, we are making some progress. But no commitments have been made on the part of Wal-Mart,” says Wendy Reed, who manages EPA’s Energy Star program.

But Wal-Mart says it is actively looking for a solution. “Despite a growing interest in CFLs nationwide, there are still barriers to adoption in this country, including end of life issues,” says Andy Ruben, Vice President of Corporate Strategy/Sustainability for Wal-Mart. “Wal-Mart is actively working with partners such as the EPA’s Office of Solid Waste to find mercury and recycling solutions. We look forward to a continued partnership that leads to real answers.”

“The only retailer that I know of that is recycling is IKEA,” says Reed.

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