My mornings usually begin with a cup of coffee and scrolling through Twitter. I am pretty particular about keeping up with what’s happening around me. But last Sunday, I was devastated by the pictures of mounds of trash and plastic bottles on the shores of Guatemala. I am glad that so many NGOs and volunteers are coming forward for the cleaning drives but it is high time that we give this issue serious thought. The pictures hit me so hard that I went into an introspection mode, thinking about how I could contribute to solving the problem.
I decided to focus on one of the major problems of current times- electronic waste. Electronic waste contains around 1,000 toxic materials that can contaminate soil and groundwater. Exposure to such toxic materials can cause many diseases and disorders. Taking a step at a time, I wrote an article about how to dispose of LED light bulbs.
Though LED bulbs do not contain mercury, unlike other light bulbs, they have small amounts of hazardous substances like arsenic, lead, etc. Hence, you must not dispose of them with your household waste to prevent these toxins from entering the water table. If it is impossible to recycle LED lights, you must dispose of them carefully and correctly.
In this article, we will learn how to dispose of light bulbs, but before that, let us understand a few basics about the need for proper disposal of electronic waste, including light bulbs.
Electronic Waste: Meaning And Hazards
Electronic waste is one of the faster-growing waste problems on the planet. We produce around 50 million tonnes of electronic waste each year, which is set to increase.
The electronic waste consists of electrical and electronic equipment that is outdated, unwanted, or damaged. The waste includes smartphones, refrigerators, light bulbs, air-conditioners, etc. Basically, electronic waste is everything that runs on electricity that you have decided to get rid of.
Globally, we recycle only 10% of the electronic waste, and the rest, 90%, ends up getting landfilled or incinerated. This is a major global issue of the current time that we must address.
Electronic and electric equipment contain small amounts of hazardous substances like mercury, arsenic, lead, silver, etc. Improper disposal leads these toxins from entering the water table, causing various health hazards in the form of diseases and disorders.
Lifespan Of Light Bulbs
The average life of an incandescent light bulb and an energy-saving halogen light bulb is around 1000 hours. A CFL light bulb lasts 10,000 hours, while an LED light bulb can last long. An LED light bulb can go on for more than 25,000 hours. This fact makes an LED light last for about 25-30 years.
Since LED lights produce significantly less heat than other bulbs and have a different working principle, these lights do not burn out that easily (well in most cases, in case they do read this article), making them not only a cost-efficient and energy-efficient lighting solution but also an environmentally informed choice.
Can Light Bulbs Be Recycled?
The basic principle of non-biodegradable waste management is the 3Rs, i.e.,
- Reuse, and
Since light bulbs are a necessity and with such widespread primary and vogue usage, reducing their use is challenging; we can ensure that they are reused and recycled.
Like any other glass or metal product, the metal and glass used in most light bulbs are recyclable. However, this is not true for light bulbs with a lot of wiring, as wires get difficult and challenging to separate. The cost of separating the materials may vary per the availability of facilities, as not all facilities are equipped with procedures and tools to process the light bulbs.
Of all kinds of light bulbs, LED light bulbs claim to be highly recyclable. According to a study by GreenTech Solutions, we can recycle 90-95% of LED lights if the facility for the same is available.
The manufacturers sell the bulbs to the retailers, who further sell them to the consumers. Once the consumer decides to dispose of the light bulb, they send them to the facility where the bulbs are collected. The collected bulb is then recycled or refurbished. The light bulb that does not reach the facility ends up in landfills or is incinerated.
Here’s what the lifecycle of a light bulb looks like.
How To Dispose Of Light Bulbs?
Humans have caused a lot of damage to the environment due to excessive plastic and e-waste generation. But it is now time we realize the importance of proper disposal of waste. While light bulbs aren’t the equipment we change every now and then, they eventually need to be replaced if they are old-fashioned or stop working.
And when the bulb needs to be replaced, it is not always easy to figure out how to get rid of light bulbs in the most responsible way possible. Especially if there is no one-size-fits-all solution for the problem, as how to dispose of light bulbs depends upon the type you are using and the area you live in.
In this section of the article, we shall discuss the disposal methods of various kinds of light bulbs.
How To Dispose Of Incandescent Light Bulbs?
Unfortunately, we cannot recycle incandescent light bulbs as they have many wires that are difficult to separate. While they are not recyclable, incandescent light bulbs are also not really hazardous to the environment as these light bulbs do not have mercury in them. When disposing of incandescent light bulbs, you may throw them in the trash with your other household waste. I recommend wrapping them in newspaper or waste paper to prevent them from shattering.
How To Dispose Of Halogen Light Bulbs?
Halogen light bulbs are no longer sold in the UK, and by the end of the year 2023, these lighting solutions will no longer be available for sale in the United States of America, with some exceptions like automobile usage. However, you may still have some old light bulbs that you have installed in your homes or offices until they burn out.
Once your halogen light bulb burns out, you may have to look for how to get rid of light bulbs.
Unfortunately, you can not recycle halogen light bulbs as they contain fine wires which are difficult to separate from glass and metal during the recycling process. As a result, most recycling facilities do not accept these bulbs for recycling. However, since these light bulbs do not contain mercury, they can be disposed of with your regular household waste.
How To Dispose Of CFL Light Bulbs?
CFL light bulbs boast a longer lifespan, and hence some people might consider them environmentally friendly. However, these light bulbs are made using mercury, a toxin that enters the water table through landfills and leads to many diseases and disorders in living beings. Hence, your options are limited when considering how to dispose of CFL light bulbs.
I strongly recommend against throwing your incandescent light bulbs in with your usual
household waste. These light bulbs must be disposed of safely and responsibly as light bulbs containing mercury, and other toxins should be recycled.
How to Dispose Of LED Bulbs
Since LED bulbs do not contain toxic and life-threatening mercury, so in many states in the U S these light bulbs are considered safe to be thrown along with regular household trash. However, since these contain other hazardous chemicals, such as arsenic, lead, etc., you may be required to recycle your LED light bulbs or dispose of the bulbs at special facilities, depending on your area.
LED bulbs are made of mostly glass and metal, making recycling even more critical so the non-renewable materials can be recovered, recycled, and reused.
Can You Throw Off LED Light Bulbs With Household Trash?
If you are wondering ‘can you throw LED light bulbs in the trash,’ this section of the article will answer the question for you.
If you are legally allowed to do so as per the federal law of your state, you may dispose of your LED lights with regular trash of your house by throwing them away in the garbage. However, I strongly advise wrapping them in paper or plastic wrap to avoid the glass pieces from ripping through the garbage bag. This also prevents any hazardous materials from escaping through the garbage bag in case the light bulb breaks.
If the federal law of your state does not allow you to throw the LED light bulbs in the garbage bag, you may need to drop them at or mail them to a particular trash facility, a hazardous waste collection site in your area. You may have to follow a specific procedure for disposing of your light bulbs at the facility, depending on the rules of the waste collection site. You may contact the facility nearby and ask about their disposal rules and regulations.
Federal Regulations For Waste Disposal And Recycling In The US
While there is no national law for mandatory recycling, some states have federal laws that mandate recycling. Sometimes local governments team up with non-profit organizations to successfully implement a recycling program.
In the wake of the increasing non-biodegradable waste ending up in landfills, more and more federal and local governments are introducing regulations that mandate or encourage their citizens to recycle.
- In California, recycling and composting are mandatory for businesses generating more than four cubic yards of solid waste per week. The state also has an established statewide electronic waste management program for non-commercial waste. California was the first state in the United States to adopt the Electronic Waste Recycling Act of 2003, an electronic waste recycling program.
- Seattle has mandatory commercial recycling laws and requires businesses to separate paper, glass, plastic, aluminum, etc.
- Illinois has a solid (non-hazardous) waste recycling policy that includes a requirement for waste management plans for business and residential associations. The hazardous waste recycling rules in Illinois follow the federal laws with an additional requirement related to mercury-related waste which includes take-back legislation with the enactment of the Electronic Products Recycling and Reuse Act.
Since businesses already generate a large amount of recyclable waste, adopting a mandatory commercial recycling ordinance can help in upscaling the recycling procedures.
At present, 25 states of the 50 states in the US have established a statewide electronic waste program. California first adopted the Electronic Waste Recycling Act of 2003 as a funding system for collecting and recycling electronic waste. Twenty-four more states followed California’s lead and adopted the electronic waste recycling laws, including Connecticut, Oregon, and North Carolina.
If you live in one of the 22 states which do not have electronic recycling laws, you still can and should recycle your electronic waste, including light bulbs, properly. If you need more information on how to recycle light bulbs, read the next section of the article. You may also check out the EPA’s resources to find how and where to recycle your light bulbs.
How To Recycle LED Light Bulbs?
Recycling your LED light bulbs is an excellent, eco-friendly option for disposing of your old light bulbs. However, you will not be able to recycle your light bulbs on your own and would require to drop or mail your light bulbs at a recycling facility for the procedure.
Follow the given steps if you are looking for how to recycle light bulbs.
- Carry out online research about the nearest recycling facility in your area that accepts LED light bulbs.
- Contact the nearest facility to find out how to drop off the LED light bulbs, as some facilities require you to drop your light bulbs in a particular kind of packaging. Some facilities may have a requirement of your ID card or a certain amount of fee. It is wise to double-check the requirements of the facility you intend to drop off the light bulbs to avoid any stress.
- If your nearest facility doesn’t take LED light bulbs for recycling, you may mail them to the facility that accepts them.
- Some companies also accept mail-in LED light bulbs for recycling. Contact the company to find out any special requirements for packing and shipping the lights.
Where to Recycle Light Bulbs?
Once you know that recycling your light bulbs is the right way to dispose of your lights, it is obvious for you to look for where to recycle light bulbs. Well. I have got you covered in this section of the article. You can consider dropping your light bulbs at any of the following facilities.
- Big-box stores like Lowes, Home Depot, and IKEA
- Many municipal safety departments of your city.
- Batteries Plus stores
- Mail-in facilities by NLR, LampMaster, Republic Services, Veolia, HolidayLEDs, Environmental LED, or Christmas Light Source.
|Type Of Light Bulb
|Can you dispose of them with household waste?
|Can you recycle them at a facility?
|Incandescent Light Bulb
|Toxins like mercury and lead are not present, but glass pieces can cause a threat if not disposed of properly.
|Yes, if your federal laws allow you to do so. Wrap in plastic or paper properly before disposing to prevent the glass from breaking out of the package.
|No, as they have several thin wires which are hard to separate from the glass.
|Halogen Light Bulb
|Does not contain toxins like mercury and lead, but glass pieces can cause a threat if not disposed of properly.
|Yes, since these light bulbs do not contain mercury, they can be disposed of with your regular household waste if your federal law allows.
|No, you can not recycle halogen light bulbs as they contain fine wires which are difficult to separate from glass and metal during the recycling process.
|CFL Light Bulb
|Contains mercury, which, if it enters the water table, is toxic and can cause several diseases and disorders in humans and animals.
|No, these light bulbs contain toxins like mercury.
|Yes, you must send these lights to a facility for the recycling process.
|LED Light Bulb
|Does not contain mercury but contains harmful substances like silver, arsenic, lead. etc.
|Yes, you can wrap them in plastic or paper and throw them with your household trash, depending upon your federal laws.
|Yes, you can drop off or mail your LED lights to the nearest or suitable facility for the recycling process.
Q1. Do LED light bulbs fall under the category of Hazardous Household Waste (HHW) like CFL bulbs?
Answer – No. LED light bulbs do not fall under the Hazardous Household Waste (HHW) category like CFL bulbs, as the former do not contain mercury like the latter.
Q2. Is it illegal to dispose of LED light bulbs with household waste in the US?
Answer – In the US, it is not illegal to dispose of LED light bulbs with household waste. However, some federal laws mandate the recycling of electronic waste. Check for the federal laws of your state on the EPA’s resources.
Q3. How to dispose of flood light bulbs in California?
Answer – California was the first state in the US to adopt the Electronic Waste Recycling Act of 2003, which requires its citizens to drop off or mail in their electronic waste, including flood lights, to the nearest recycling facility.
Lights bulbs are a commodity used by every household. Though, with more and more people shifting to LED light bulbs which have a longer lifespan, light bulbs are burning out much lesser. Hence, we are producing lesser lighting e-waste. But the used-up light bulbs must be disposed of or recycled properly to avoid any hazard to the environment.
While many people do care about the planet, they are sometimes unaware of how to dispose of light bulbs or how to recycle light bulbs. If you are one of them, this article must have helped you in understanding non only the proper disposal of light bulbs but also the federal regulations for the same. If you still have any doubt about the same, write to me in the comment section.
As an interior decorator, I am always looking to make homes beautiful but with minimalism. As a part of my occupation, I am always in touch with smart devices that makes your life easy, beautiful and comfortable. I take care of the smart living section for BringUptoDate.