How to Dispose of Light Bulbs Safely for Recycling

Light Bulb Recycling - disposing off your old incandescent, halogen, fluorescent and LED lights instead of throwing in trash

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

Cliffs Variety
(415) 431-5365
479 Castro St
San Francisco, CA 94114
www.cliffsvariety.com/

Rainbow Grocery
(415) 863-0620
1745 Folsom St
San Francisco, CA 94103
www.rainbow.coop/

City Lights
(415) 863-2020
1585 Folsom St
San Francisco, CA 94103
http://citylightssf.com/

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.


8 Comments on “How to Dispose of Light Bulbs Safely for Recycling

  1. Do you mind if I quote a couple of your articles
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  2. I believe that your statement, “all light bulbs contain mercury”, is incorrect. LEDs contain no mercury. Incandescent bulbs contain no mercury, but the use of incandescents causes more energy to be consumed and therefore the addition of mercury into the atmosphere (due primarily to the use of coal to produce electricity). Incandescent bulbs do contain lead, but broken incandescent bulbs do not put mercury (or lead) into the air in your home.

    Please see http://www.epa.gov/osw/hazard/wastetypes/universal/lamps/basic.htm

  3. RecycLights is a company that also provides commercial recycling for all bulb and batteries. Our service provides service for companies who deal in larger quanities. Please visit our web site for details.

    Thank you.

  4. I find this article very usefull as recently I see an active discussion exactly about the negative effects of LED lights due to their incorrect disposal. The fact that LED is considered and environment friendly technology this doesn’t mean that the material the bulbs are made of cannot be dangerous. I hope more people will pay attention to tha fact that incorrect disposal doesn’t make LED lights bad, but just as with batteries it is within our responsibility to make the most positive effects of the technology.

  5. Bulbcycle.com is a certified recycler that specializes in Light bulb Lamp and Fluorescent light bulb disposal nationwide.

    For one low price you will receive:

    – A certified recycling container
    – Paid shipping labels to ship your box to the recycling center
    – All disposal and recycling fees
    – Certificates of destruction and recycling.

    Visit Bulbcycle.com today to learn more!

  6. Looking for recycling companies in the Redwood City,CA area. We have a large commercial project replacing florescent tubes, CFL stab in and screw in bases, and troffers. We would prefer companies that provide pickup from locations.

  7. Hi Ty,

    I would try contacting Recology! We do no accept light bulbs, but Recology does at their Transfer Station. They will be able to direct you to the best recycling resource.

  8. As was noted in a comment above, a statement in this article is incorrect: “All light bulbs contain mercury.” Incandescent bulbs do not contain mercury and can be disposed in regular trash. Electric generation plants may emit mercury (coal fired) and incandescent bulbs use much more electricity than other types of bulbs.

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