How to Dispose of Light Bulbs Safely for Recycling
Updated August 2019
How do you dispose your light bulbs? If you simply throw them away in the trash bin, consider light bulb recycling instead. While most light bulbs aren’t hazardous, they do offer some recyclable components.
Before we get into light bulb recycling, it’s important to understand the different types of bulbs. You’ll find: incandescent, compact fluorescent (CFLs), light-emitting diodes (LEDs), and halogen lights. Generally, all four types can be recycled in the same place. There’s even a nice network of recycling sites nationwide and in San Francisco.
With so many out there, it’s hard to keep track of how to dispose light bulbs. That’s why we’ve created this quick guide to get you started!
How to recycle incandescent light bulbs
Incandescent light bulbs usually don’t contain any hazardous chemicals. Because of this, they are pretty easy to recycle. Simply place your burnt out light bulbs in the recycling bin or drop off at the nearest recycling center. If broken, please wrap in some sort of padding for safety.
How to recycle halogen light bulbs
Commonly used as outdoor flood lights, halogen bulbs are more advanced than regular incandescents. While they are more efficient, they burn at a higher temperature and cost more. These bulbs usually don’t contain hazardous materials and can safely be recycled. Place them in the recycling bin or drop off at a recycler.
How to recycle LED light bulbs
These bulbs are 90% more efficient than incandescents and contain no hazardous chemicals. This makes disposing of LED light bulbs easy. While you can safely throw them away in a trash or recycling can, these bulbs have recyclable components. So take them to your local recycler instead to make sure they’re put to good use.
How to recycle fluorescent light bulbs
You might be wondering, “Can I put fluorescent light bulbs in the trash?” The answer is no. These bulbs contain about 4 milligrams of mercury, a toxic metal. Broken CFL bulbs can be hazardous to the environment and water supply if left in a landfill (for information about what to do when a light bulb breaks, check out our blog here). Because of their toxicity, don’t throw these light bulbs in with other trash or recycle items. You must keep fluorescent light bulbs separate when recycling. Bring them to the nearest qualified recycling center.
Now all you have to do is find your nearest light bulb recycling center!
Light Bulb Recycling Locations in San Francisco
479 Castro St
San Francisco, CA 94114
1745 Folsom St
San Francisco, CA 94103
1585 Folsom St
San Francisco, CA 94103
Light Bulb Recycling Locations Outside San Francisco
Most hardware stores, including Ace Hardware, Home Depot, and Lowe’s, have light bulb recycling programs. These programs vary by location, so it’s a good idea to call in advance. We recommend using the Earth911 website. Here, you can search for the light bulb recycling locations closest to you.
Thank you for doing your part when recycling light bulbs! If you have any questions, feel free to call us at (650) 493-8700.
James Kao is the founder/CEO of GreenCitizen, which provides products and services that help make every day Earth Day. He’s passionate about data and sustainability, with a deep background in launching, funding, and managing successful tech companies. James enjoys spending quality time with his family, hiking, traveling, watching well-made documentaries, and eating good healthy food. read more »