How to Dispose of Light Bulbs

Wondering how to get rid of old light bulbs? Upgrading to smart light bulbs is an excellent way to save energy. 

But before you throw away those old bulbs, it’s important to know that they are often recyclable. Tossing them in the garbage isn’t the best option, as the glass could break and cause a mess.

Light bulbs have been lighting up our lives for more than a century. As technology advances, so does the need to dispose of old, burnt-out bulbs properly. Doing this isn’t just about being eco-friendly; it’s also about being responsible and sustainable. 

When damaged, light bulbs can release gases like argon, nitrogen, or helium, so it’s crucial to follow the right steps to protect the environment and yourself.

In this article, we’ll explore the different types of light bulbs and provide you with a step-by-step guide on how to dispose of them safely.

How the Dispose of Light Bulbs Benefits the Environment?

Light Bulbs
Image Credit:

Before we get into the details of how to dispose of various light bulbs, let’s take a look at how being responsible for how we throw them away helps the environment.

Disposing of light bulbs responsibly offers several advantages for our environment. Firstly, it helps prevent the release of harmful substances like mercury, which can be detrimental to our surroundings. 

Secondly, it promotes resource conservation by recycling materials that can be used to create new light bulbs, reducing the demand for new resources. 

Lastly, it lessens the strain on landfills by reducing the amount of waste they have to handle. When we don’t dispose of light bulbs properly, they often end up in landfills, which can lead to the release of harmful components, harming the soil and air quality. 

Choosing the right disposal methods is not only good for the environment but also a step towards a cleaner and more sustainable future.

Different Types of Light &Their Guidelines for Disposal

Many types of light bulbs are out there, and each one comes with its own way of being thrown away safely. In this section, we’ll talk about how to properly dispose of each type of light bulb.

1. Incandescent Light Bulbs and Halogen Light Bulbs

Incandescent light bulbs, those familiar and timeless sources of light, work by heating a wire filament until it emits a warm, cozy glow. 

They are well-loved for their affordability and the comforting light they provide. However, there’s a drawback – they aren’t very energy-efficient, and they tend not to last very long.

Halogen bulbs, on the other hand, aren’t known for being environmentally friendly either. They’re an improved version of the old incandescent bulbs, using halogen gas to make the filament operate at higher temperatures. 

This boosts their efficiency and lifespan. Halogen bulbs give off a bright, clear white light, which makes them a top choice for tasks that need focused lighting, like outdoor areas.

To dispose of these bulbs, it’s a good idea to securely wrap them in a newspaper or place them in a plastic bag to prevent glass shards from spreading. Then, simply throw them in your regular household waste bin.

Due to their inefficiency, many countries have started to phase out or prohibit incandescent bulbs in favour of more energy-efficient options.

2. CFL Light Bulbs 

Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs) are a more energy-efficient choice when compared to incandescent bulbs. These lamps work by passing an electric current through a tube containing argon and a small amount of mercury vapour. 

The tube has a phosphor coating that produces light when excited by the electrical current. One key advantage of CFLs is their longer lifespan and lower energy consumption compared to incandescent bulbs.

However, it’s crucial to handle broken CFL light bulbs with care because they contain mercury. If a CFL breaks, use a dustpan or a sturdy piece of cardboard to gently collect the broken pieces. Put the fragments into an airtight container or a sealed zip-lock plastic bag.

Duct tape can be used to pick up any fine powder or tiny glass fragments. Clean any remaining residue with a damp paper towel. 

Make sure to place all materials, including the CFL base or the ends of the fluorescent tube, inside the plastic bag. Once everything is securely contained, take the bag to your nearest recycling facility.

It’s important to be aware that CFLs contain a small amount of mercury, so proper disposal is necessary to prevent harm to the environment.

3. Fluorescent Light Bulbs & Tubes

Fluorescent lighting is widely used in offices, businesses, and sometimes even homes. It works by using low-pressure mercury vapour gas to create ultraviolet (UV) light, which excites phosphors, making visible light. 

Unlike regular trash service or curbside recycling, you can’t toss fluorescent light tubes into your standard waste bin.

To dispose of them properly, you should check for local recycling programs or take them to designated collection points at stores. It’s important not to break them because that could release mercury, which is harmful.

Fluorescent bulbs are appreciated for their energy efficiency and longer lifespan when compared to incandescent bulbs.

4. LED Bulbs

Light-emitting diodes, or LEDs, have become a top choice for energy-efficient and long-lasting lighting. These lights work by using semiconductor technology to produce light when electricity flows through them.

LEDs are super energy-efficient, lasting for thousands of hours, and come in a variety of colors and styles. What’s more, they’re environmentally friendly and free of harmful materials, making them an excellent choice for lighting up homes and businesses.

The best part is that, like Halogen Bulbs and Incandescent Bulbs, you can safely throw LED bulbs in your regular household trash. Unlike fluorescent tubes and CFLs, LED bulbs aren’t considered hazardous waste because they don’t contain mercury. 

However, keep in mind that they have circuit boards with small amounts of lead and arsenic, but they’re well-contained within the bulb. 

So, go ahead and toss LED bulbs in your standard trash without worry, as they’re made of plastic and are not prone to breaking.

5. HID Bulbs

HID bulbs are a common choice for outdoor and industrial lighting. These bulbs generate light by passing an electric current through a gas or a mix of gases, creating a bright electric arc discharge.

It’s important to note that some HID bulbs contain hazardous materials, so it’s a good idea to check with your local recycling facilities for the right way to dispose of them. These bulbs should be recycled at approved recycling centers because they contain mercury. 

You should avoid throwing HID bulbs in your regular trash or recycling service. Instead, wrap the HID bulb gently in plastic and take it to a recycling facility that accepts them.

What sets HID bulbs apart is their remarkable brightness, which makes them a popular choice for various applications, such as street lighting, stadium floodlights, and vast industrial areas.

Are Every Light Bulbs Recyclable?

Not all types of light bulbs can be recycled, and the ways to dispose of them can vary. It’s important to do a bit of research and reach out to your local recycling centers or authorities for guidance on how to properly get rid of specific types of bulbs. 

Recycling is the best approach to protect our environment and save valuable resources. In most cases, you can toss incandescent and LED bulbs in the regular trash, but there’s a catch with CFL, fluorescent, and HID bulbs. 

These bulbs often contain potentially harmful materials like mercury, so it’s highly advisable to recycle them at certified hazardous waste collection sites. There, they can be managed in a way that reduces their environmental impact and allows for the responsible reuse of their components. 

By taking these steps, you’re not only contributing to a cleaner planet but also ensuring the safety of your community.

DIY Projects with Old Light Bulbs

Image Credit:

If you have a flair for creativity, old light bulbs can be the foundation for some fun do-it-yourself (DIY) projects. Just turn them into charming decorations, stylish vases, or even little green havens in the form of terrariums. 

This practice, known as upcycling, not only cuts down on waste but also gives your home decor a one-of-a-kind touch.

The possibilities with old light bulbs are quite diverse. You could use them to create eco-friendly solar garden lights, setting the mood for your outdoor spaces. 

If you’re a fan of indoor greenery, these bulbs can become captivating terrariums, complete with thriving plants. And for those cozy evenings, repurpose them into candle holders, casting a warm and inviting glow.

If you’re in search of ideas and inspiration for your DIY light bulb projects, there’s a wealth of resources available online. 

These sources provide a wide range of creative concepts and step-by-step guides to help you explore your artistic side while doing your part to reduce waste and enhance your living space. 

So, don’t toss those old bulbs away; instead, let your creativity shine through with DIY projects that are not only environmentally friendly but also visually appealing.

Light Bulbs Recycling Services

If you’re looking for practical and eco-friendly methods to get rid of your light bulbs, then several companies specialize in light bulb recycling services, and here, we’ve highlighted some of the most reputable ones.

1. Recycle Technologies

A prominent light bulb recycling service provider operating in the United States, Recycle Technologies offers a wide range of recycling options, including convenient mail-back programs, accessible drop-off locations, and efficient pickup services. 

Their services encompass all types of light bulbs, from CFLs and fluorescent tubes to HID bulbs and LED bulbs.

2. Lamp 

Lamp stands as a significant player in the light bulb recycling landscape in the United States. 

Their services include a hassle-free mail-back program designed for CFLs and fluorescent tubes, alongside a practical pickup service catering to businesses and various organizations.

3. Fluorecycle Inc. 

For businesses and organizations of all sizes, Fluorecycle Inc. is a specialized commercial lamp recycling company.

They extend an array of recycling services, such as convenient pickup options, on-site recycling solutions, and user-friendly mail-back programs. 

Their acceptance spans all light bulb types, from CFLs and fluorescent tubes to HID bulbs and LED bulbs.

4. Earth911

Earth911 is an informative website dedicated to recycling and environmental topics. Within their resources, you can explore a comprehensive database of recycling centers that welcome light bulbs.

This database helps you conveniently locate a nearby recycling center for your disposal needs.


To sum it up, practicing responsible light bulb disposal may seem like a minor action, but its environmental impact is substantial. 

By adhering to the advice outlined in this article and delving into the recycling opportunities available in your area, you’re actively contributing to a cleaner and more eco-friendly planet. 

Therefore, always exercise care when dealing with your old bulbs and opt for eco-conscious alternatives whenever feasible, as these choices play a role in shaping a more radiant and sustainable future.


Can I throw light bulbs in the bin?

It’s generally not recommended to throw light bulbs, especially fluorescent bulbs, in your regular trash bin.

Incandescent bulbs are safer to dispose of this way, but for other types like CFLs or LED bulbs, it’s better to recycle them to prevent environmental contamination.

How do I know if my light is LED or fluorescent?

You can differentiate between LED and fluorescent lights by looking at the type of bulb.

LEDs are typically small and solid, resembling a computer chip, while fluorescent lights consist of long tubes or curved bulbs. The packaging or markings on the bulb itself may also indicate the type.

Do Light Dimmers Save Energy?

Yes, light dimmers can save energy. When you dim the lights, you reduce the amount of electricity they consume, which results in lower energy usage and potentially reduced electricity bills.

Is the disposal of LED bulbs categorized as e-waste or universal waste?

LED bulbs are not typically considered e-waste (electronic waste) as they do not contain electronic components like circuit boards.

Instead, they are generally categorized as universal waste or hazardous waste in some cases, depending on local regulations.

It’s best to check with your local recycling or waste disposal facility to understand the specific disposal guidelines in your area.

Additional Contents

  1. How to Dispose of Old Gas [3 Best Ways You Can Try]
  2. How to Dispose of Paint [3 Best Ways]
  3. How to Dispose of Cooking Oil [6 Best Ways]
  4. Free Hot Tub Removal Methods
  5. Free Exercise Equipment Removal: The Ultimate Guide