Light bulb recycling is absolutely essential if we want to prevent further damage to our planet but it’s quite a complicated area because of the different types of light bulbs.
So, we spoke to an environmental expert on recycling to find out how to recycle light bulbs properly and ensure that your light bulbs won’t become a problem for future generations and this is what we learned.
How To Recycle Light Bulbs (By Type)
Before you buy light bulbs it’s a good idea to use the light bulb finder app to ensure you’re using the most eco-friendly light bulbs possible, but if you haven’t had a chance to do that or are using older light bulb types, we’ve got instructions on how to recycle light bulbs for all types of light bulbs.
Incandescent Light Bulbs
Incandescent light bulbs are cheap and cheerful and are, essentially, just a glass enclosure with a metal filament (incandescent bulbs tend to use a tungsten filament) that can be heated using electricity to produce a glow.
But you won’t find them on our list of energy-saving tips because incandescent bulbs are very costly when it comes to energy use.
In fact, incandescent bulbs have now been banned in many countries and jurisdictions because they are so eco-unfriendly.
They are almost impossible to recycle too and most recyclers refuse to take them – you can hunt around and see if you can find a recycler locally who will take them but if they won’t, wrap them in packaging material and place them in your regular trash.
Halogen Light Bulbs
You’re most likely to find a halogen light bulb outdoors (though our favorite solar Christmas outdoor lights don’t use halogen bulbs) as they are small, lightweight, and produce high-intensity brightness.
They look like they are made out of glass but are, in fact, made of quartz and cannot be recycled like ordinary glass. So, don’t put them in your glass recycling facility.
The majority of municipalities ask that you place these bulbs in regular trash too.
You can try to see if you can find a local light bulb recycling center that will take halogen bulbs but be prepared to be disappointed.
Fluorescent Bulbs (and CFL bulbs)
Fluorescent bulbs tend to be Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs and that’s not good news for the environment.
These lights tend to have a tube and inside that tube, a mix of mercury and argon is allowed to circulate, which when you put a current through it, glows.
Unfortunately, CFL bulbs contain mercury up to 4 mg per bulb and if they get broken they will harm the environment and potentially any animals or children nearby too.
This means you should never throw these bulbs or fluorescent tubes into the ordinary trash. You must find a local recycling center for them.
Contact your local waste collection services to ask where they recommend for this or visit your local Lowes or Home Depot and use their CFL bulb recycling facilities.
The good news is that these old light bulbs can be properly recycled in the right facility and the mercury is kept out of the environment completely.
LED Light Bulbs
LED bulbs are the new standard for lighting because they are super energy efficient and they tend to last about 30 times as long as an incandescent light does and more than 5 times longer than CFL bulbs too!
They contain no hazardous chemicals or poisons and they don’t even get hot when in use! That means you could throw LED bulbs in the trash can but we’d recommend that you don’t.
That’s because LED light bulbs are easy to recycle and if you talk to a local recycling company they ought to be delighted to take them off your hands.
You’ll also find that stores such as Home Depot, HolidayLEDs, etc. often run their own recycling points for these bulbs because they’re very economically viable to recycle, and thus, they can make a small profit from turning your old bulbs into new materials.
There’s no doubt at all that the LED bulb is the most eco-friendly lighting option, it uses the least power, lasts for the longest, and is nearly 100% recyclable too.
Recycling centers may not want to take all types of bulbs and sometimes you may need to place a bulb in household trash rather than recycling it, if you do, please make sure to pack it so that the person emptying the trash doesn’t get cut on broken glass.
However, there are recycling options for the more eco-friendly bulbs and it’s very much worth doing so if you can. The planet will thank you for it.