Last update |

How to dispose of light bulbs sustainably?

Lightbulbs are, of course, one of those things that are ubiquitous household objects – aside from some people who live only by natural light, everybody has at least a few of them! Unfortunately, they don’t last forever – although newer LED bulbs certainly last an extremely long time – and, at some point, they’ll all need to be disposed of.

Just how can you safely dispose of your old bulbs, however? Should you recycle them – or do you just have to throw them in the trash?

Can I Recycle Bulbs With Other Glass Products?

Unfortunately, you can’t recycle glass light bulbs in your recycling bin with other glass products, such as bottles and jars. Recycling centers that handle glass products such as these won’t be able to recycle light bulbs, as they contain complex arrangements of metal and plastic too – things that these centers aren’t typically set up to deal with.


Also, CFL bulbs contain mercury, which likely also isn’t something that these places are prepared for, or able to dispose of safely.

Instead, if you’re aiming to recycle your glass bulbs, you’ll need to find a service that’s set up for taking them. Many retailers such as Lowes and The Home Depot will have in-store recycling services that will take care of recycling light bulbs for you – and your local municipal waste collection agency may also provide such a service.

To find recycling services near you, check!

Can I Throw Them In the Trash?

Although it’s not really the most ideal option, some of these bulbs actually can be disposed of in the trash if need be. It may well be that you’re unable to find a recycling center, or that your locality doesn’t provide services for recycling the exact type of bulb that you have.

If this is the case, then there are some bulbs that can be disposed of with the rest of the trash. If your bulb is an incandescent bulb, then it’s considered OK to throw it in the trash – and in fact, it can be difficult to recycle incandescent bulbs.


Incandescent bulbs are mostly being phased out, but there are still quite a few of them around, and there likely will be still some out there for a few years still. Essentially, these aren’t considered recyclable, and actually should be thrown away with the rest of the trash in most cases, unless your locality has a collection arrangement for them.

If you’re throwing these in the trash, then be kind – wrap the glass up, especially if it’s already broken. This will stop the glass piercing your bin bag, and also help to stop it causing injuries to people further down the line.

Fluorescent bulbs and CFL bulbs shouldn’t evger be thrown away in the trash, though. In fact, in some states, it’s actually illegal to do so. These bulbs contain mercury, which is extremely harmful to both the environment and to people. Always dispose of them properly – not in your household trash bin!

Recycling Incandescent Bulbs

Incandescent bulbs are essentially the oldest form of light bulb still available – although they’re essentially obsolete technology, and have already mostly been phased out. They’re far less energy efficient than newer technologies, which can produce the same amount of light using far less energy.

LED bulbs also don’t have breakable filaments, meaning that newer LED bulbs can last far, far longer than the average incandescent bulb ever did.


As previously stated, it’s not really considered economically viable in most cases to recycle incandescent bulbs. Although they contain a lot of glass, they’re not usually recycled. However, your locality may possibly have a collection service for them.

If not, then unfortunately the only way that you can realistically dispose of incandescent bulbs is to wrap them up safely in case of broken glass, and put them with the rest of your trash.

Recycling CFL and Fluorescent Bulbs

These bulbs absolutely must be recycled! Unlike the other types of bulb, these contain mercury – an extremely harmful substance to both the environment, and to living creatures. It’s very important that mercury isn’t allowed to contaminate – for instance, by dumping these types of bulb in a landfill.

It’s for this reason that you should always dispose of these using a proper recycling service. No matter what, these should absolutely never be simply thrown into the trash. Mercury is extremely toxic!

Some states actually already require by law that these types of bulb be recycled. You typically won’t be able to recycle these bulbs with your normal recycling, but instead will have to use a special service. Check with your local municipality or local waste recycling center. Some stores such as Lowes and The Home Depot may also be able to help you to recycle these bulbs, and more!

Recycling LED Bulbs

LED bulbs can be difficult to dispose of correctly, as they shouldn’t be discarded with household waste – but like other light bulbs, they’re also often not accepted for recycling by standard recycling collections. However, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to recycle them!


If your local recycling facility or municipal recycling collection service isn’t able to process LED bulbs, then you can likely still find a specialized recycling facility or service. Some hardware stores, for example, might be able to help out, and your local government may well have a service that provides for safe disposal of these bulbs too.

Recycling Halogen Bulbs

Halogen bulbs are in many ways just an evolution of the older incandescent bulbs. Like older incandescent bulbs, halogen bulbs are being phased out – but newer bulbs are being designed to use the same fittings and form factor that older bulbs did. LED bulbs that look very similar to halogen bulbs are commonplace.

As halogen bulbs are so similar to traditional incandescent bulbs, they share one of the same problems – they’re not typically recyclable. Instead, they should be discarded with the rest of your household trash.

As with incandescent bulbs, make sure to wrap these up well, just in case of any broken glass. Even if the glass doesn’t break now, it might do in the bag – so be kind to yourself and others, and wrap your bulbs up!


Although it might not always be easy to dispose of bulbs safely, it’s worth the effort – and in some places, it’s a legal requirement that you properly recycle some types of light bulb. Hopefully, this guide has helped you learn just how you can dispose of your old bulbs safely!

Read next:

Leave a Comment