Light bulbs come in a multitude of shapes and sizes. They can have many uses, but all with the same purpose... to produce light. Confusion can come with how to dispose of a light bulb; as it can be hard to differentiate between the different types. So... what are the 4 types of light bulbs? They are LED, Fluorescent, Incandescent and Halogen. Unfortunately they can't all be disposed of or recycled in the same way. In this article we will talk through the different types of light bulbs and how to dispose of them; also including some ways to reuse and upcycles old bulbs.
Over the years light bulbs have significantly advanced from the humble original filament in glass casing, invented by Thomas Edison in 1879. Although these can still be used today in some countries; most places are phasing them out in favour of the more energy efficient LED bulbs. For more on which light bulbs are being phased out, have a read of our article on the Light Bulb Ban.
What can I do with unwanted light bulbs?
If you find yourself with a light bulb you no longer what, whether it is working or not; there are a few things you can do with an old light bulb:
What to do with a broken light bulb
If you have a light bulb that is smashed or no longer works, take it to your local recycling centre or WEEE retailor. Alternatively get creative and give it an upcycle into something new like a vase or decoration. More creative upcycling ideas can be found below.
What to do with light bulbs that still work
If you have bulbs that work but you no longer want; why not offer it to someone that could make use of it. This could include giving it to charity, someone you know or selling it online. Always look to pass on any bulbs that still work rather than just disposing of them; to help reduce waste.
Can you bin a lightbulb?
Ideally you should never just bin a light bulb. All products that can be recycled, should be. Some places suggest Incandescent and Halogen bulbs be put in the trash as not many places accept them for recycling. And as they don't contain any harmful chemicals this will not be dangerous for landfill sites. However there are places that will accept Incandescent and Halogen bulbs so do look for WEEE recycling program near you.
Fluorescent and CFL bulbs on the other hand must never be put in the bin due to them housing mercury. Which when dumped in landfill in large quantities can damage the surrounding environment.
Can bulbs be recycled?
Yes! All light bulbs can be recycled. But not everywhere will accept all types. Fluorescent and CFL light bulbs must always be recycled due to them containing mercury; which needs to be disposed of correctly and safely. LED's are easily recyclable, with some parts having the possibility of being reused. Incandescent and Halogen bulbs are a little trickier, as not all places will accept these due to them being harder to recycle. Carry on reading to find out more about recycling each specific bulb type.
Can I put light bulbs in my recycling?
Most house hold curb side recycling bin collections will not accept light bulbs. This is usually due to their delicate nature and composition. The four types of bulbs are all made up of different materials, which need to be handled separately. So taking them to a specific facility is necessary. But do check with your local authority for rules near you.
Upcycle light bulbs
Upcycling is a great way to make use of your old exhausted light bulbs. The old style incandescent bulbs are usually the best bulbs to use; they have the big bulb shape which can be hollowed out and are see through. Get the arts and crafts kit out and get creative. Also a great one to get the children involved in. So...What can you make out of light bulbs?
Light Bulb Upcycling Ideas
Reuse as a light by attaching an LED bulb.
- Paint and decorate to make characters.
- Decorate and use as Christmas decorations.
- Pop a solar powered LED in the end to use as a garden light source.
- Put in some soil and plants to make a terrarium.
- Remove the top and add water to use as a vase.
- Hang as decorative art.
- Paint and add string to make a decorative hot air balloon.
- Fill with concrete and add a screw to make a wall hook.
- Attach empty bulbs to LED fair lights to give an old school effect. Slip a balloon over the bulb to create different colours.
How to get rid of Fluorescent and CFL light bulbs
It is very important that you dispose of fluorescent or compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) bulbs properly and safely. These bulbs contain mercury; which is a toxic heavy metal. Albeit used in small quantities; this can still be very harmful to both you and the environment.
Mercury from broken bulbs can leak into the air, soil and water ways. This is why CFL bulbs should never be placed in the trash, ultimately ending up in landfill. It is therefore imperative you take these types of bulbs to the correct disposal facility. Your local recycling centre is likely to be able to accept them, but do check first. WEEE recycling retailors will usually accept these also.
Be careful when transporting fluorescent bulbs to ensure they do not smash on route. If you do have a smashed bulb, be sure to dispose of it as soon as possible; to limit your contact with any leaking mercury.
How to get rid of Incandescent light bulbs
Incandescent bulbs are the oldest type of bulb and are no longer widely used or sold across the world. However you may find that you do have an old one lying around and or coming to the end of its life. You'll therefore need to know how to dispose of an incandescent light bulb.
The trouble with incandescent bulbs is that they're made of thin glass and wires; this makes the recycling process very difficult. Unfortunately this deters many recycling facilities from accepting incandescent bulbs. But there are places out there that will accept them; so have a search in your local area.
As a last resort, you can put incandescent bulbs in the trash. They do not contain any harmful chemicals and therefore won't cause any drastic harmful impacts on the environment, when placed in landfill.
How to get rid of Halogen light bulbs
As Halogen bulbs are very similar to incandescent bulbs the disposal processes are the same. Try to find a recycling facility that will accept this type of bulb. But if not, then it is acceptable for halogen bulbs to be put in the trash.
How to get rid of LED light bulbs
LEDs are the leading bulbs in terms of energy efficiency and ability to be recycled. Their all round sustainability is what makes the LED the best bulb to choose. Nearly all LED bulbs produced are recyclable and increasingly we are seeing new bulbs being made from recycled materials.
An LED bulb is made up of mainly metal, glass and plastic. All of these components have the ability to be recycled and will be accepted in multiple places. Local recycling centres, WEEE recycling programs and even retailers are all likely to accept LED bulbs.
Don't throw LED bulbs in the trash as this is a waste of precious recourses. It can be tempting as they are only small and don't seem worth the trip to the dump. But save a few bits up and take them all in one go instead. Every little helps when it comes to saving the planet.
Disposing of light bulbs
Ultimately when it comes to disposing of light bulbs, it is first important to establish the type of bulb you have. This will determine the disposal process you need to follow. Make sure to dispose of them sustainably, by opting to recycle where possible and avoid throwing bulbs in the trash.
If you have Christmas or fairy lights similar rules apply. You can read more here on How To Dispose Of Christmas Lights.