My recent trip to Walmart to buy some light bulbs became the inspiration for this post. I felt they needed some praise until I looked into it further...
Walmart, with their massive purchasing power, has managed to be able to offer CFL light bulbs at under $1, even for 100W equivalent bulbs.
According to the incandescent phase-out schedule, the 100w incandescent was supposed to be phased out by 1/1/2012, and lower wattage incandescents being completely phased out by 1/1/2020.
I remember purchasing several 100W equivalent CFL light bulbs around the time the incandescents were to be phased out, and the cheapest price I could find was still above $4 per bulb. According to the timeline, we were phasing out a light bulb that could easily be bought for well under $1, for another that was 400%+ more expensive. For lower and even middle-class families, this had potential to put a strain on the budget.
Although the light bulbs claim to last 1000's of hours and/or many years, true life experience proved to me that depending on the use, brand, and bulb size, a good portion of them last less than a year. For this reason you weren't really saving any money in the 'long-run' as the bulbs frequently blew out before the return of investment.
All in all, American's were paying alot more, for alot less. Until now. While searching Amazon.com and even ebay.com, I've yet to find anyone who can compare with Walmart's sub $1 prices. So props to them for making the new standard light bulb easily affordable.
That being said, it's time for me to put a scold'n on them.
Walmart's bulbs are easily affordable, and (knowing their quality standard) easily replaceable. I only expect the bulbs I purchased to last maybe a year if I'm lucky. Then it will be time to replace them. This will lead to me (and the rest of America) with millions of blown CFL bulbs, and as of yet, Walmart offers no way to recycle them in-store.
For those of you who aren't aware, CFL light bulbs contain mercury. Since alot of smaller towns and cities across the country don't have a local recycling center to take the CFL's to, it only seems environmentally responsible that Walmart would offer some sort of program for their (Low-quality) disposable CFL light bulbs. (Similar to their printer cartridge program)
After doing a search, I see that Walmart has offered a few select cities a 1-day event where you could take all your old CFLs in for recycling. Though it's better than nothing, it still assumes the American public is storing the blown CFL light bulbs for up to a year waiting for a chance to recycle them.
You and I both know that a large percentage of the blown light bulbs have and will continue to end up in our landfills.
Environmentally, LED light bulbs will be the lesser of all evils, but as of now, they seem to be at the price levels that CFL's were about 5 years ago. Let's see if Walmart's purchasing power will work its' magic on them soon.
*For the record, the Incandescent Phase-Out program was never officially put into law as it failed to pass on July 12, 2011. However the US Environmental Protection Agency still uses the Phase-out plan as a guideline for the Energy Star program.