Environmentally-Friendly Bulb Disposal

Environmentally-Friendly Bulb Disposal

Our last action, Action 6, was use energy star LED lightbulbs everywhere.

Link to the full post on this action: https://www.sustainabilitymadeeasier.com/homepage/action-7-bulb-disposal

We discovered that changing a light bulb is easy…and can save a staggering amount of energy and money! So, if you checked your house for inefficient bulbs and swapped them out with Energy Start LED bulbs, you may be wondering how to properly dispose of the old light bulbs you found.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) suggests using the easy-to-use search engine on the website, Earth 911, for finding places near you to recycle different types of light bulbs:
If you are from another country, it is a likely a similar website exists for you.

Most, if not all, municipal waste management agencies, will give specific directions on disposing of light bulbs. Use the information here as a starter guide and double check that it is what your local municipality wants.

Compact Fluorescent Lights CFLs and Fluorescent Tubes:
Due to the small amount of mercury contained in these bulbs they really MUST be recycled at an approved location to prevent the mercury from causing harm to sanitation workers and the environment.

Incandescent and Halogen Bulbs:
These types of light bulbs do not contain mercury. However, they cannot just get tossed into the normal household recycling because the thin metals inside the bulbs interfere with the glass recycling process[i]. Instead, take them to one of the few places that will accept them for recycling or throw them into the household trash.

There are inconsistencies online about the proper disposal method for LED light bulbs. They do not contain mercury, but some of the parts are recyclable. They can’t be recycled in the normal household recycling. Check with your local municipal waste management agency for their disposal suggestion. The general recommendation is for LED bulbs to go into the normal household trash. Some municipalities, however, request that their citizens should treat LED bulbs as hazardous waste, similar to CLFs[ii].

What to do if a CFL or Fluorescent Tube Breaks:
The small amount of mercury in fluorescent lights, including CFLs, can be released as mercury vapor when these bulbs break. The EPA offers a step-by-step guide for dealing with this at https://www.epa.gov/cfl/cleaning-broken-cfl.
Be sure to follow the guide if you have broken a fluorescent bulb. It has a Quick Cleanup guide section and more Detailed Cleanup section.  An internet search will bring up instructions.

[i] Taylor, G. (n.d.). How To: Dispose of Light Bulbs. Retrieved from https://www.bobvila.com/articles/how-to-dispose-of-light-bulbs/
[ii] San Francisco Department of the Environment. (2019). How do I get rid of light bulbs in San Francisco? Retrieved from https://sfenvironment.org/light-bulb-disposal-in-sf

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