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How to Recycle or Dispose of Household Light Bulbs

Do you know how to dispose of these common household light bulbs?

Don’t put that light bulb in the trash can just yet! Can it be recycled? Are you potentially harming the earth with the toxic chemicals found in some light bulbs? This article will give you a quick rundown of the different household light bulbs and their proper disposal methods. You cannot put some light bulbs in the trash because they are considered hazardous waste and could contaminate the ground with broken glass and toxic materials (i.e., mercury). 

In most states, you cannot dispose of any light bulbs in your curbside recycling bin. Each state has different rules and regulations for recycling, so always check locally for proper light bulb recycling and disposal. 

If the light bulbs are recyclable, you must check locally and find a facility that will accept them. For example, many Home Depot stores take certain light bulbs for recycling. If they are not recyclable and non-toxic, you can put them in the trash or upcycle.

At UnMake Your Mark it’s our mission to help research and inform you with the knowledge on proper disposal and recycling of everyday items.

EfficiencyWattsRecyclableRegular TrashToxic
LEDMost efficient6-8 wattsYes – check locally  NoYes, (arsenide, nickel, copper)
CFLLess efficient than LED13-15 wattsYes – check locallyNeverYes, mercury
HalogenMore efficient than incandescent90 wattsRare, but possibleYesNo
IncandescentLeast Efficient60 watts (standard)NoYesNo
Quick guide for household light bulb disposal or recycling

LED Bulbs

  • LED = Light Emitting Diodes
  • 6-8 watts
  • MOST energy efficient
  • Long-lasting
  • No mercury, BUT they contain trace toxins (aluminum gallium arsenide, nickel, copper). 

Disposal

  • usually NOT recyclable curbside
  • MUST be specially recycled; this website is a great place to search for a local drop-off for light bulb recycling Search.Earth911
  • Avoid putting in the trash

CFL (Fluorescent) Bulbs

  • CFL = compact fluorescent lamp
  • 13-15 watts
  • More energy efficient than incandescent, less energy efficient than LED
  • Contains mercury (toxic!)

Disposal

  • usually NOT recyclable curbside
  • MUST be specially recycled; this website is a great place to search for a local drop-off for light bulb recycling Search.Earth911
  • Do NOT put in the trash as toxins will leach into the earth

Incandescent Bulbs

  • Classic, traditional light bulbs which have been used for years. 
  • 60 watts (90% of energy lost to heat)
  • NOT energy efficient
  • No mercury

Disposal

Halogen Bulbs

  • Brighter, higher lumens
  • Slightly more efficient than incandescent

Disposal

  • Usually NOT recyclable, not impossible as some select facilities take them, again search this website with your zip code to find a specialty location Search.Earth911
  • Put in trash
  • If broken, wrap it in paper for disposal

Hopefully, this helps with the proper disposal of household light bulbs. If you want more information about these light bulbs (type of light tones, durability etc.) here is a great Light Bulb Buying Guide. It can be tricky to manage the disposal of different household items, but that’s what UnMake Your Mark is here for! Feel free to e-mail us at any time with any recycling or sustainability questions: [email protected] 

Keep UnMaking Your Mark!

Xoxo,
Jen

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