How to dispose of your old light bulbs
Despite being such common household objects, disposing of light bulbs can be a confusing topic. Light bulbs are primarily made of metal and glass, both materials we’re used to recycling. While it is true that these materials are ideally recycled to minimise waste and environmental impact, the construction and other materials that go into lightbulbs mean that it isn’t as simple as just tossing an old globe into the recycling.
What are the most common light bulb types?
First off are Incandescent and Halogen globes. These are similar yet different technologies, but both have similar disposal procedures, so we’ll group them together for the purposes of this guide. Formally the most common types of globe, they have been rapidly falling out of use as the invention of incredibly energy efficient light bulbs has rendered them mostly obsolete.
Despite no longer being the first choice, these globes can still be found in use and therefore their disposal is something to consider. Unfortunately, nowadays it can be difficult to find recycling centres that will take these bulbs. On the flip side, these bulbs contain no toxic materials and can be disposed of with general waste. This does still pose a danger, however, as fragile shards of glass will always create a risk of cutting. Common sense prevails here: all you need to do is carefully wrap your bulb in newspaper and place into a paper bag before throwing away.
Much more common these days are CFL globes, which stands for compact fluorescent lamp globe. These light bulbs are fluorescent tubes, twisted and wound to fit within the same space as a normal bulb. These lights are energy efficient and long lasting, making them a common sight. These lights must be taken to a recycling centre, or alternatively a waste disposal centre. This is due to the presence of mercury inside these bulbs. While they are perfectly safe for normal use, this mercury can be released when the glass is broken. In landfill, this leaks directly into the environment, causing long term damage. Thankfully, recycling these bulbs allows the mercury to be safely reused and prevented from entering the environment. Make sure when transporting these bulbs to a recycling centre to carefully wrap them in newspaper to avoid breakages.
Finally, this leaves LED globes, the most energy efficient and longest lasting of all! LED light bulbs are now widespread and, thankfully, are not generally considered toxic. This means that they can be disposed of in the same way was incandescent bulbs, by safely wrapping them in paper to avoid loose shards. These bulbs are also recyclable when brought to recycling centres. This is the best method of disposal as it allows the materials of the bulb to be reused.
That was a lot of information at once, so we’ll summarise the most important points below for easy reference:
Incandescent: Can safely be disposed of after wrapping bulb in paper to prevent loose shards of glass. Take to a local recycling centre if available.
Halogen: Can safely be disposed of after wrapping bulb in paper to prevent loose shards of glass. Take to a local recycling centre if available.
CFL: Must be taken to a recycling centre. Do not put in household waste or recycling.
LED: Can safely be disposed of after wrapping bulb in paper to prevent loose shards of glass. Take to a local recycling centre