Even light bulbs with extensive lifetimes will one day retire, and you might hesitate to throw your burned-out light bulb into the trash. While incandescent, halogen, and LED bulbs are safe to dispose of in landfills, they can also live a second life through recycling. The recycling process for light bulbs may not be as mainstream or straightforward as plastic or metal, but recycling bulbs helps reduce waste and conserve our resources to make for a better planet.
Here are some tips and facts for you about how to recycle light bulbs:
WHAT HAPPENS TO RECYCLED LIGHT BULBS?
Light bulbs are made of several recyclable materials: glass, plastic, and metal. When taken to a recycling facility, bulbs are separated into these components. The metal of circuit boards, filament, and its base are often the most sought after material; these will be reused for multiple purposes. For CFL bulbs, which contain mercury, the facility will safely extract the mercury from the bulb parts.
WHERE CAN I RECYCLE LIGHT BULBS?
Recycling programs for light bulbs vary from city to city. Light bulb recycling is relatively new, so you will need to contact your local waste agency to ask if they already have a light bulb recycling program in place. If not, Batteries Plus Bulbs can take your old light bulbs at their stores for recycling for a small fee. If you’re in Canada, all IKEA stores have recycling centers that can accept CFL bulbs at no cost. Otherwise, you can order recycling packages from the following online stores:
(holiday lights only, you pack your own lights and there is no charge)
Do not place your light bulbs in the general recycling bin, as the glass used in light bulbs is not the same as the glass used in bottles and other recyclables. If mixed, they can cause the whole batch to be unusable.
WHY DOES IT COST MONEY TO RECYCLE BULBS?
You may notice that organizations and collection points charge a disposal fee for recycling light bulbs. While this may be initially daunting, the fees help cover the cost of light bulb disposal because they are more complicated to store, pack, and ship. Light bulbs are fragile, and if shattered can cause injuries to anyone handling it, therefore they need to be packed and transported safely.
WHAT ELSE CAN I DO WITH A LIGHT BULB?
Looking for a bit of creativity? Old light bulbs are great for DIY craft projects such as hanging ornaments, snow globes, and more. Personal favorites include a terrarium and a ship in a bottle. A light bulb’s second life can be beautiful!
WHY SHOULD I RECYCLE MY LIGHT BULB?
While it may be easy to toss your light bulb into the trash can, landfills are becoming more crowded as Americans produce nearly 300 million tons of trash a year. Plastic or glass that doesn’t naturally degrade pile up for lifetimes longer than our own. The raw materials needed to produce a light bulb take up energy and resources to create new products.
Meanwhile a burnt-out light bulb that is recycled can save on resources instead of sitting unused for hundreds of years. By recycling your light bulbs, you will build towards a more sustainable community for generations to come.