How to Dispose of Light Bulbs

How do you get rid of unwanted light bulbs?

Recycling has become a part of our daily lives and disposing of old light bulbs is no exception. Many homes and businesses are replacing outdated incandescent, halogen, fluorescent and CFL bulbs one by one as they expire with LED bulbs and some are replacing entire rooms at one time. In this article, we explore what’s the best way to dispose of bulbs.

Which light bulb types can be recycled?

Not all lightbulbs are created equal. Some can’t be recycled while others should be recycled, either because fall under the category of hazardous waste or because they have valuable parts that can reduce our need to mine the planet for them.

Here’s what you can and can’t do with different lightbulb types:

LED Bulbs

LEDs are completely safe and don’t contain any harmful substances. They have a very long lifespan but when they do finally expire they should be recycled as they contain other electrical components made from valuable materials. Recycling them reduces our need to mine new sources – a practice known to damage the environment. This is true of all LED types from streetlamps and panels to LED strips and even LED Christmas tree lights.

Incandescent  Bulbs

These can’t be recycled. Unfortunately, the very thin metal wires that make up incandescent filaments are too fine to be separated from the other glass and metal parts of the bulb. Incandescent light bulbs should be put into your normal household waste bin. We recommend putting them into a separate bag in case they break.

Fluorescent Tubes

Fluorescent lamps are energy-saving and can’t be put in the rubbish bin because they contain small amounts of hazardous mercury. Although the mercury doesn’t affect you when you use a fluorescent bulb because it’s inside the tube, once shattered, the mercury can be released. Taking them for recycling also ensures that other valuable materials in the bulbs including glass and metal can be recovered, melted down and reused.

Compact Fluorescent Lamp (CFLs)

Compact fluorescent lamps are energy-saving light bulbs and so they too cannot be put into your rubbish bin. Like full-sized fluorescents, they contain small amounts of mercury and must be disposed of safely at a recycling centre.


As with incandescent bulbs, halogen lightbulbs should be disposed of in your normal household waste bin for exactly the same reason – they have very fine wires in their filaments that can’t be separated out.

Metal Halide (HID)

Metal halide bulbs are energy-saving light bulbs (like fluorescents) and shouldn’t be binned as they contain small amounts of mercury. We’ll talk about where you can find suitable recycling facilities below.


Neon lamps are also energy-saving bulbs that shouldn’t go into the rubbish bin because of the small amounts of mercury they contain and to ensure that valuable parts of the lamps, such as glass and metal, aren’t lost or wasted.

Where can I dispose of light bulbs?

For all types of bulbs and regardless of where you dispose of them, it’s a good idea to wrap them in a bag separately from your other household waste or recycling so that if (when!) they shatter nothing is lost and hazardous shards of glass are kept in one place.

We’ll show you how to find suitable recycling whether you’re in the UK or USA.


Where can I recycle LED Light Bulbs in the UK?

In the UK and the EU, the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive, is now law. The WEEE Directive requires producers – not consumers – to pay for the collection, treatment, and recovery of waste electrical equipment. This means that retailers must allow consumers to return their waste equipment, including certain types of light bulbs, free of charge. The best way to find a location that offers this service is through one of the search engines dedicated to recycling like This will give you the nearby recycling spots by location and by what it is you want to recycle. Put in “lightbulbs” when it asks you what you want to recycle.

Do UK Supermarkets recycle light bulbs?

The following supermarkets and home supply stores in the UK also have recycling that can accept different bulb types. You can find your nearest one using the search engine above:

  • Curry’s
  • B&Q
  • Tescos
  • Homebase
  • Waitrose
  • Argos

Where can I recycle LED Light Bulbs in the US?

In the US, the equivalent legislation to WEEE is called Household Hazardous Waste items (HHW) and there is also a selection of not-for-profit search engines to help you find where to recycle all sorts of awkward and confusing waste types including different types of lightbulbs. Lowes and Home Depot are the best large retailers to recycle bulbs at but there are numerous mail-in programmes as well. The locator at earth911 will list those nearest to you when you use their search engine.


Can LED lights go in the bin?

All of the materials used in making LED bulbs can be recycled. They don’t contain any toxic material so while they can go into domestic waste, they should be taken to your local recycling plant for disposal.

Can broken bulbs be recycled?

Broken bulbs should be handled very carefully but dealt with in the same way as whole bulbs when it comes to disposal. Recycle or throw them out depending on type as we’ve indicated above.

It’s all a bit confusing, but hopefully, we’ve given you a better idea of how and where to get rid of your old lightbulbs, regardless of which type you need to dispose of and helped prepare you for an LED future.