Compact fluorescent lightbulbs

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05.Choice verdict

The environmental benefit of the phase-out of inefficient lighting has been widely publicised, but CFLs aren’t without impact — they use more energy to produce and contain mercury, which could spell problems if it’s not recycled. So what’s the overall verdict?

A life cycle analysis of CFLs published last year in The Environmental Engineer concluded that CFLs are the better choice for the environment, mainly because of their much more efficient use of electricity. As for the mercury they release at the end of life, the analysis found that the production of incandescent lamps contributes five times more mercury from burning coal for electricity. This was even the case in Tasmania, where hydroelectricity dominates, although involving much smaller quantities.

Environment groups are generally supportive of the initiative overall. “CFLs are not completely green in every way, but on balance they have a much lower impact than incandescents,” according to the Australian Conservation Foundation.

Did you know?

  • Up to 90% of the energy an incandescent (standard) light bulb uses is wasted, mainly on heat.
  • Lighting represents around 12% of Australia’s domestic greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Globally, electric lighting generates emissions equal to 70% of those from all passenger vehicles.

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