While the average incandescent light bulb only lasts about 1,000 hours, modern LEDs exceed 50,000 hours. The longer life spans reduce waste, but when your light burns out, you still need to dispose of the light bulbs.
Proper light bulb disposal depends on the type of bulb – you can throw some in the trash while you must take others to a recycling center. We’ll cover disposal and recycling methods for each type.
How to Dispose of Incandescent Light Bulbs
While less energy efficient than modern options, an incandescent bulb is the easiest to dispose of – just toss them in your regular trash. The average incandescent bulb lasts about 1,000 hours and contains no hazardous material.
These bulbs contain only small amounts of recyclable material, which is complicated to recover. Because of that, incandescent bulbs are non-recyclable and safe in regular garbage.
How to Dispose of LED Light Bulbs
Light-emitting diodes, better known as LEDs, work by passing an electrical current through a microchip. They’re 90% more efficient than a standard incandescent bulb and last 35,000 – 50,000 hours before burning out.
The microchip in LED light bulbs may contain trace amounts of arsenic and lead. Because of this, some LEDS are considered hazardous waste. You need to recycle LED bulbs or take them to a hazardous waste collection site versus throwing them in the trash.
You can dispose of your LED light bulbs by bringing them to Home Depot, Lowes, or IKEA and dropping them into one of their recycling bins. Check ahead first – not all locations offer LED recycling.
If you can’t find a local LED recycling program, use Republic Services‘ mail-in light bulb recycling program. You can select the type of bulb and size of box you need. Then, load up your bulbs and drop off your package at FedEx. The downside is that the service is a bit pricey.
How to Dispose of CFL Light Bulbs
CFLs (compact fluorescent lamps) are energy-efficient bulbs, lasting between 8,000 and 20,000 hours. They are more efficient than standard incandescent bulbs but less efficient than LEDs.
Since CFL bulbs contain mercury, which is toxic, you can’t throw them out in your regular trash. Small amounts of mercury can leak out of the bulbs tainting the groundwater when in a landfill.
You can drop off CFL light bulbs at participating True Value, Lowes, Home Depot, and Ikea stores. Check ahead before taking your CFLS. Not all locations have light bulb recycling drop-offs.
If you can’t find a CFL drop-off at local big box stores, recycle your CFLs through a mail-in program. The mail-in kits come with a fee that includes shipping and the cost of recycling. Find a list of mail-in CFL recycling options on the EPA’s website.
How to Dispose of Halogen Light Bulbs
Halogen light bulbs are similar to incandescent bulbs and last about 2,000 hours. Halogen bulbs aren’t hazardous; you can dispose of them by tossing them in your regular trash bin.
Halogen bulbs contain little recyclable material, and most recycling centers don’t accept them.
How to Dispose of Fluorescent Tube Lights
Fluorescent tube lights are a popular option for commercial spaces, garages, and workshops. These long, thin lights last about 20,000 hours before burning out.
Fluorescent lights contain mercury and fragile glass. Since mercury is toxic to humans and pets, these lights are hazardous waste. You should never throw fluorescent lights in the trash. Some states even have laws requiring residents to recycle these bulbs.
While Lowes and Home Depot accept compact fluorescent lights, most don’t accept fluorescent tube lights. Instead, look for a Batteries Plus location. They’ll take fluorescent tube lights, although fees may apply. You can also contact your local hazardous waste recycling center or search Earth911 for locations near you.