How to Safely Dispose of Light Bulbs: What You Need to Know!
Even though light bulbs shed light to our homes and businesses, most people are in the dark when it comes to disposing of these necessary items. This is especially true since most countries and regions have different regulations concerning light bulb disposal. The issue of light bulb disposal is becoming more and more prevalent as different types of light bulbs are coming out, too.
Different light bulb types contain different ingredients and parts, some of which being toxic. This forces light bulb consumers to dispose of their light bulbs in a way that is safe, though it can be hard to know how because of the variety of bulb options.
In this article, we shed light on how to dispose of light bulbs safely. We begin by looking at why you can’t throw away light bulbs and end by providing a list of disposal options based on light bulb type.
Why Can’t I Just Throw Away My Light Bulbs?
The main reason that you can’t just throw away light bulbs is that different types contain hazardous materials. For example, some light bulb types contain Mercury. Mercury is hazardous. When a light bulb with Mercury makes it to a landfill, the Mercury can seep out of the light bulb and into the groundwater, thus negatively affecting the drinking supply of the area.
Mercury is not the only harmful ingredient used in light bulbs. Other light bulb types contain substances like lead, arsenic, halogen gas, and more. Throwing away light bulbs with any of these substances puts the environment at risk.
Factors to Consider
When throwing away your light bulbs, the main factor to consider is the type of light bulbs you have. The most common light bulb types include compact fluorescent lights, incandescent, LEDs, halogen bulbs, and fluorescent tubes.
It is important to know what type of bulb you are dealing with in order to dispose of it properly. Some light bulb types can be disposed of in your regular garbage, while others cannot. Similarly, some local communities accept certain types for recycling, while others need to be disposed of differently.
How to Dispose of Light Bulbs According to Type
Since light bulbs come in many types, we have broken down this disposal list according to type. Feel free to skip to the light bulb you use to know how to dispose of it correctly.
CFL stands for compact fluorescent light. These bulbs are highly popular because they use less energy than other options, making them more environmentally and economically friendly.
The main downside of CFLs is their ingredient content. This light bulb type uses Mercury, which is why the light bulb is so energy efficient. At the same time, Mercury is a hazardous substance, meaning that you cannot throw CFLs away in your regular garbage. If you throw away these light bulbs, you risk exposing the ground water beneath the landfill to Mercury.
Due to the Mercury content, it is imperative to clean up broken CFLs right away, especially if you have children or animals. The Mercury can pose serious health risks if ingested.
Luckily, CFLs can be recycled because Mercury, glass, and metal, the three most important components to this light bulb type, are all recyclable. Unfortunately, recycling these light bulbs will vary from place to place. Call your local recycling center or a waste collection site to see if your center accepts these light bulbs.
If your center does not accept CFLs, you can donate them to depots, which will be discussed at the bottom of this article.
If you have an incandescent bulb or lamp, you are in luck. These bulbs can easily be tossed into your garbage and disposed of just as you would any other trash in your house. If the bulb was already broken, wrap it in paper or plastic before throwing it away. This prevents it from cutting through the garbage bag or injuring a garbage man.
You can also upcycle incandescent bulbs in creative projects. You can use these light bulbs to make Christmas ornaments, bases, or other pieces of decorations. Look online for thousands of ways to use incandescent bulbs.
Light emitting diode bulbs, or LEDs, require special disposal. Although LEDs don’t contain Mercury, they are made with substances like lead and arsenic, which are hazardous too. Just like with the CFLs, throwing LEDs in your regular garbage poses an environmental hazard to the area surrounding the landfill.
Most communities easily and readily accept LEDs for recycling, though. Whenever your bulb gets burnt out, check with your local recycling center to see how or if you can dispose of the bulb through a separate collection service.
Halogen bulbs are not as popular as CFLs or LEDs, and they are more difficult to dispose of. Since these bulbs, as you probably figured from the name, contain halogen gas, they are not suitable for recycling.
Most recycling centers will tell you to dispose of your halogen bulb with your regular garbage. Still, you might want to request a special collection policy for halogen bulbs if you don’t want them in a local landfill.
If you go to throw away halogen bulbs in your regular garbage, take time to place the bulb in its original carton or container. In the case that you threw away the item, like I personally would, then wrap the bulb with paper or plastic. This will prevent the bulb from shattering in your garbage bag.
Fluorescent tubes are very similar to CFLs, but they are bulkier. They contain Mercury, making them hazardous and not the easiest to recycle. Not to mention, the sheer size of fluorescent tubes makes it difficult to handle them. They are easy to break on accident.
To make matters a bit more confusing, fluorescent tubes are hazardous waste and cannot be accepted by your curbside collection. To dispose of these bulbs, you will need to call your recycling center or depot. Most likely, a center near you will have a special program for disposing of fluorescent tubes.
Drop Off Depots
One of the easiest ways to dispose of items is through municipal recycling centers. However, some of these light bulbs are more difficult to recycle at municipal recycling centers purely because some centers lack the necessary funding or resources. This is especially true if you live in a rural or small community.
If you find that your municipal recycling center does not accept your old bulbs, then you can drop them off at a drop off depot instead. A drop off depot will typically be connected to a large retailer. You will need to call the location near you to find out their process for bulb drop off. The two most popular drop-off depots in the United States include the following:
- American Lighting Association
If you do not have either of these organizations in your area, use Earth 911 to find other disposal depots near you.
Because of the harmful substances used in certain light bulb types, light bulbs are not the easiest things to dispose of. You should dispose of the light bulbs you have based on its type. If you have any concerns or questions, contact your local recycling center. They’ll be happy to give you directions as to how to best dispose of your light bulbs.
- Related Read: How to Safely Dispose of Dry Ice: What You Need to Know!
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