How to dispose of old light bulbs

With many households making the changeover from traditional incandescent lamps to energy-saving alternatives, it is important to know how to dispose of used light bulbs safely. Some kinds of light bulbs can be recycled and some contain traces of toxins that could be dangerous, so it is essential to give some consideration before throwing them out.

Recycle or discard?

Knowing how to dispose of your light bulbs requires identification of which type of bulb you are dealing with.

The old incandescent bulbs with filaments are not recyclable and can be disposed of in general waste, although if the glass is fractured they should be wrapped to avoid injuries. They should not be added to recycled glass boxes as the type of glass is unsuitable and the bulbs contain metal parts. The same applies to halogen bulbs.

The modern variety of energy efficient fluorescent bulbs can contain traces of mercury so should not be added to everyday waste. Fortunately they are recyclable.

Recycling facilities differ from council to council and are expanding regularly. If local collections do not include fluorescent bulbs, most people should be able to find a recycling centre in their town. Many branches of major stores like Tesco or IKEA have collection points for fluorescent bulbs.

Metal halide (HID) and neon lamps should be treated in the same way as fluorescent bulbs, as they contain mercury. Look for a local recycling centre or collection point.

LED bulbs have exceptionally long lives and are not usually accepted in recycling centres. Check local collection points before resorting to the household waste.

Dealing with spare bulbs

Many householders changing over to energy-efficient bulbs might wonder how to dispose of old light bulbs of the incandescent kind that they have stored up. If they are still usable, it is worth considering donating them to a charity or offering them on a site like Freecycle rather than throwing them away.

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