How to Dispose of Light Bulbs
Disposing of light bulbs in the UK is easy when you understand the different bulb types. This affects the safest, easiest, and most environmentally friendly disposal method. Recycling light bulbs is possible but you can’t simply put them in a glass recycling bin, as they can contain wires, electrical, and chemical elements.
Sometimes to dispose of old light bulbs you can just throw them away with your general waste. However, it’s important you know the differences between old light bulbs, so you get rid of them safely from your home or business. Here we explain how to dispose of a light bulb in a safe and green way.
Find out how to dispose of light bulbs in this guide.
Can you recycle
Yes, you can recycle most modern light bulbs. However, recycling light bulbs depends on the type, as you can’t usually recycle old incandescent light bulbs. Most LED, fluorescent, and CFL bulbs – including energy-saving bulbs – are recyclable when used for both domestic and commercial purposes.
As light bulbs contain electrical and sometimes chemical components, you can’t recycle light bulbs with other types of glass – such as bottles and jars. Instead, in most cases light bulbs should be recycled alongside other electrical items with Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) recycling.
What types of light bulbs
can you recycle?
There are three main types of light bulbs you can recycle:
- Light emitting diodes (LEDs) – LEDs don’t contain any harmful substances, so are safe to dispose of with general waste, but it’s better to recycle them. LED strip lights, Christmas lights, or just LED bulbs are recyclable. They’re crushed and component parts separated (aluminium, lead, and glass), which are recycled and used in other products.
- Compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) – energy-saving CFLs contain trace amounts of mercury, so they class as a type of hazardous waste. The WEEE Directive requires removal of mercury and any other chemicals before recycling, so it’s important you recycle CFLs separately or with WEEE waste. Once it’s removed, glass and metal components are recycled separately.
- Fluorescent tubes – all fluorescent tubes also contain a small amount of mercury, so require specialised light bulb recycling. Any mercury and other chemicals are removed and can be reused in new bulbs, while the glass and metal components are separated and recycled individually.
What types of light bulbs
cannot be recycled?
Unfortunately, you cannot recycle old light bulbs such as:
- Incandescent bulbs – they contain no toxic or harmful chemicals but the fine wires within them are difficult to separate, so they can’t be recycled with other types of glass. Instead, they should be disposed of with your household rubbish or commercial general waste.
- Halogen bulbs – like incandescent or filament light bulbs, the thin wires mean halogen bulbs are also not accepted for recycling in many cases. But they don’t contain any toxic elements, so are safe to dispose of in your household or commercial general waste bins.
How to dispose of
old light bulbs
Disposing of old light bulbs such as filament, incandescent, or halogen bulbs (those with a wire inside the bulb), can’t be done through WEEE recycling. This is because the wires inside them are very fine and difficult to separate, making them hard and expensive to recycle – so most recycling centres don’t bother.
When disposing of light bulbs like incandescent and halogen types, you can throw them away safely with your general waste – as they don’t contain any chemicals or parts that need special handling. To dispose of old light bulbs like these, wrap them in some waste paper, fabric, or their original packaging so they don’t shatter and cut into other waste.
Can you recycle
broken light bulbs?
If the actual glass of the bulb is cracked, shattered, or broken, you can recycle them in the same way as any that have expired. Be careful with any CFLs or fluorescent bulbs as the mercury or other chemicals may leak, which can be hazardous to human health and the environment.
Wear gloves to handle any broken light bulbs and clean any pieces of glass with a paper towel. Wrap the broken pieces in some waste paper, fabric, or place them in a plastic sealed bag. Then recycle alongside any other old CFL or fluorescent bulbs.
Can you put light bulbs
in your recycling bin?
No, you should not put old light bulbs in your recycling bin at home. This is because most domestic recycling bins don’t accept glass for electrical items for recycling. Businesses should also avoid putting light bulbs in their dry mixed recycling bins and instead arrange specific bins to store and recycle your old bulbs.
Where to recycle
There are a few places where you can recycle light bulbs:
- WEEE bins – one of the easiest ways of recycling light bulbs in bulk for businesses or households is to arrange delivery and collection of a WEEE waste bin by a licensed waste carrier. Store any used, broken, or expired light bulbs in the bin. They’re then transported to an appropriate recycling centre nearby for safe separation and recycling.
- Recycling centres – most council recycling centres have specific light bulb recycling bins where you can dispose of any type of light bulb. Check whether your local recycling centre offers such facilities.
- Select shops – certain supermarkets and other big stores have light bulb recycling bins for quick and convenient recycling. Often these are near any battery recycling bins they may also provide.
Arrange light bulb
Arrange free delivery of WEEE waste bins to store your old light bulbs safely on your premises. Then book collection by our licensed waste carriers with Business Waste. We’ll deliver bins to your business or home, then collect at an agreed date – whether you simply need a one-off collection or regular light bulb disposal.
Our licensed waste carriers will remove your old light bulbs and take them to a nearby recycling centre for processing. This ensures your old bulbs are safely dismantled and as much of their materials as possible are recycled and reused – including any chemicals they contain.
Light bulb disposal
How do you recycle light bulbs?
How to recycle light bulbs depends on their type and if you’re getting rid of them from your business or home. You can recycle LED, fluorescent, CFL, and other energy-efficient light bulbs from a business with your WEEE waste collections. The chemical elements will be removed and the glass recycled separately.
Households can recycle light bulbs at many large household waste recycling centres (HWRCs). These should have separate bins for light bulbs, but check with your local authority first. Domestic light bulbs are also recycled by being dismantled and the glass sent for recycling and any hazardous components disposed of safely.
Unfortunately, you can’t recycle old incandescent light bulbs.
How do you dispose of LED light bulbs?
LED light bulbs are much easier to recycle compared to older incandescent or halogen bulbs, as they don’t contain any harmful chemicals. They’re made up of glass, metal, and electronic components. The easiest way to dispose of LED light bulbs is in a WEEE waste bin.
Businesses can use WEEE waste bins to dispose of lots of LED light bulbs safely and sustainably at once. If you’ve only got a few old LED bulbs to dispose of at home, visit your local recycling centre or home and electronic shops such as IKEA and Homebase that may have in-store recycling bins for LED light bulbs.
How do you dispose of LED strip lights?
You should dispose of LED strip lights in the same way as individual LED light bulbs – with a WEEE waste bin. LED strip lights are a type of electronic waste, so disposing of in a WEEE waste bin ensures the individual components are separated and recycled or reused where possible.
Can I put light bulbs in the bin?
Yes, you can put incandescent and halogen light bulbs in your general waste bin at home or work. It’s also safe to put LED light bulbs in your household waste bin when they reach the end of their life. However, it’s better for the environment to recycle LEDs with WEEE waste.
You should not put CFL or fluorescent light bulbs in the bin as they contain mercury or other chemicals and class as a type of hazardous waste. These chemicals can leach when the general waste ends up in landfill, contaminating ground, water, and air – posing a risk to human and environmental health.
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