Recycle Your Old Energy-Saving Light Bulbs – Don’t Just Throw Them Away!

Recycle Your Old Energy-Saving Light Bulbs - Don't Just Throw Them Away! [picture: Broken Lightbulb]

Maybe your lightbulbs burned out over the winter, or maybe you just made a new year’s resolution to upgrade to LED lighting – who knows? But if you’re disposing of old and expired lightbulbs, there are a lot of complicated recycling guidelines.

Some can be thrown out with the rest of the rubbish; others need to be collected. In article we hope to dispel some of that confusion.

When a lightbulb is recycled, it gets sent to the reprocessor where it is crushed. 98% of the material (glass, plastic, and metal), can then be reused. It’s the circle of life.

Incandescent Lightbulbs

Incandescent lightbulbs are non-recyclable and should be disposed of along with the rest of the household waste. These bulbs are made of a different type of glass than bottles – and the fine wires in the processing are very hard to filter out.

Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs)

Fluorescent light fittings are Waste Electrical & Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Category 5, and must be collected separately for disposal or dropped off at collection points.

CFL bulbs have a small amount of mercury inside them (just enough to fit on the tip of a biro), which is safe for humans but can be harmful to the environment if they get dumped in a landfill.

The handy site Recolight provides a map of the nearest collection points to your postcode. If you have a house full of CFL lightbulbs and a trek from the nearest collection point, it’s probably best to wait until you have a collection of expired bulbs – just make sure they don’t smash!

Fluorescent Tubes

Fluorescent tube lights fall under the same regulations as CFLs above: drop them off at your nearest collection point. For larger projects like a commercial refitting, you can request a lamp collection.

Halogen Lamps

Halogen lightbulbs cannot be recycled with regular glass and should be disposed of with regular household waste.

Metal Halide Bulbs

As with energy-saving lights, high-output metal halide lamps should be recycled in the same manner as CFL bulbs.

Light-Emitting Diodes (LEDs)

LED bulbs contain no harmful substances and individual LEDs can be disposed of in household waste. However, it is advisable to check the disposal guidelines for the housing and equipment in which they are housed, which often contain plastics.

Photo by phozographer on Flickr (Creative Commons)

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