How to Dispose of Candles

What to do with old candles when they’ve burnt out for the last time is important. Candles may seem like a green way to illuminate your space and add a warming atmosphere, as they don’t rely on electricity. Yet at the end of their life, you’re left with a jar, part of a wick, and some small bits of wax.

How to dispose of a candle responsibly depends on what parts of the candle you’ve got left, the condition, what materials they’re made from, and if you’re getting rid of a candle from your home or business. With the right steps, you can reuse and recycle candles in various ways.

Find out how to dispose of candles in this guide with ideas about what to do with old candle jars, leftover wax, and the wick.

candles in jars burning.

How to dispose of 
candles in the UK

To dispose of candles in the UK at home you must first separate the parts of your old candle. Start by scooping out any remnants of candle wax that remain at the bottom of the jar or candle holder. This should be put to one side for reuse or thrown away in your household general waste bin.

Most wax in domestic candles is made of paraffin, vegetable or animal fats, or oils. Recycling candle wax and recovery of this material isn’t economically viable for many local councils and authorities, so general waste is the only option for disposal in most cases. However, you can reuse the candle wax in various ways (see below).

Any remaining bits of wick should also be disposed of with your general waste as they’re not recoverable. If your old candle is in a glass jar then you should clean it out to remove any remnants of wax. Then take it to your local bottle bank or nearest household waste recycling centre (HWRC) to recycle your glass candle jar with other glass waste.

For any other types of candle holders or jars made from materials other than glass, check your local recycling collections. Many plastics can be recycled in your domestic recycling bin. A tea light can be recycled in most household recycling bins too, as they’re made from aluminium that’s highly recyclable. Ensure it’s clean and dry before recycling.

Can you recycle 
glass candle jars?

You can recycle glass candle jars with most other old glass bottles and jars. Empty out any leftover wax and wicks then take them to your local bottle bank or HWRC. Recycle glass candle jars in the mixed glass recycling bottle bank or the one for its specific colour.

To recycle glass candle jars from your business you put them in any glass bins you have and add them to your commercial glass waste collections. Again, you must remove any wax and wash out the jars before doing so. This removes contaminants and increases the chance of recycling.

Recycling glass candle jars is important as glass is fully recyclable. It can be endlessly recycled with no loss of quality and is used to create many new glass products. This saves on the energy and resources required to create fresh glass candle jars, resulting in a positive environmental impact.

candle in a glass jar.

How to clean candle 
jars for recycling

Before recycling any glass candle jars or reusing the wax you need to separate the two. Using a knife and/or spoon to scoop it out sometimes works if the wax is soft and you use a bit of elbow grease (not literally). Often it’s too hard, but there are easier ways to get it out.

There are three main ways to clean out the wax from your candle jars before recycling them:

  • Boil and melt – place your candle jar on a heat-safe surface and boil a kettle. Pour the boiling water into the jar, leaving a little room at the top. The melted wax should float to the top and harden as the water cools. Simply pick it out when the water’s cool and scrape away any remaining bits stuck to the jar’s insides, before washing with soap and water.
  • Freeze it out – break up the wax a bit if you can and then put the jar in a freezer overnight. When the wax has frozen you should be able to pop it out with a butter knife. Breaking it up beforehand makes removing the frozen wax easier. Then wash the insides with soap and water before recycling.
  • Use the hob – place the candle jar in an empty glass bowl over a pan of simmering water. This melts the wax so you can easily pour it out, without the jar itself getting too hot (though wearing oven gloves is advised). Alternatively, have the bowl on a heat-safe surface and pour the boiling water around the candle jar in the bowl but ensure no water goes into the jar. Safely pour out the melted wax then clean the jar.

What to do with 
empty candle jars

Rather than recycling candle jars when you’ve cleaned them out and emptied them, they have various other uses. This includes old candle jars made of glass, metal, plastic, or any other material. A few ideas of what to do with empty candle jars include to:

  • Hold and display flowers like a vase
  • Plant small cacti or other house plants – or grow plants from a seed
  • Store pens, make-up brushes, or toothbrushes
  • Use to serve drinks, desserts, or snacks (after a thorough cleaning)
  • Keep cat and dog treats for easy access

How to dispose of candles 
from your business

Any businesses with old candles and jars to dispose of must arrange commercial waste collection. It’s a legal requirement that only licensed waste carriers remove commercial waste from your premises, which includes old candles from shops, hotels, restaurants, and any other business. Use a professional waste management company that ensures recycling of your candles.

An easy way to dispose of candles from your business is to remove any wax and wicks, and then recycle them with your current commercial glass waste collection. Just like recycling candle jars at home, you can dispose of them responsibly at work with other waste glass bottles and jars.

This ensures all the candle jars from your business are recycled and turned into new glass products. It also saves you money on landfill tax by reducing the amount of waste you send to landfill. Arrange commercial waste collections to get rid of old candles whether it’s leftover stock, broken candles, or used ones from tables in a restaurant.

candle tea lights.

Can you reuse candle wax?

You can reuse candle wax after it’s been used in a candle. It just needs remelting and repurposing to use again as a fresh candle or for other things. If you melt it and mix it with another type of wax it can affect the smell, colour, and consistency.

Never pour candle wax down the drain, as it will cool, harden, and block your pipes. To reuse candle wax you first need to melt the wax left in your old candle jar in a bowl of boiling water or over a simmering pan. Once it’s melted there are a few ways to reuse candle wax to make a:

  • New candle – simply pour the melted wax into an old glass candle jar around a wick to create a fresh candle. If you’ve only got a small amount of wax either build it up over time to form a rainbow candle or add it into an empty tealight for a new small candle.
  • Wax melt – find a mould or ice cube tray pour your remaining wax into it and leave it to solidify. Add colour and fragrances then when they’re solidified you can bag them up and gift them to friends and family or place any fragranced ones around your home or office.
  • Fragrance pouch – if the wax is from a scented candle you can melt it down or break it off and put it in little pouches (or add fragrances when melting down). Place these fragrance pouches inside drawers, wardrobes, and even your car to introduce a fresh fragrance to stale areas.

Can candle wax go 
in general waste?

Small amounts of solid candle wax can be disposed of in domestic and commercial general waste bins. If you can’t or don’t want to reuse and recycle candle wax then it should be removed from the jar and thrown away. Never throw a glass jar in general waste as it’s 100% recyclable.

Ensure the wax is cool and dry – don’t throw away warm melting wax as it could stick to the bin or waste bag and pose a fire risk. Put it inside any other rubbish in the general waste bin, such as wrapping it in an empty crisp packet.

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