How to Properly Dispose of Old Light Bulbs


The United States Environmental Protection Agency recommends that consumers, especially corporate offices and industrial buildings, take advantage of local options for recycling CFLs, fluorescent bulbs, and any lighting that contains even a trace amount of mercury or other hazardous materials. Unless your business has made the switch to LEDs, then you might already know that your old fluorescent bulbs and other lights are hazardous to the environment when broken or no longer in use, and must be disposed of properly and safely.

What Lights are Hazardous

High-intensity discharge lights, ultraviolet lamps, neon lamps, metal halide lights, and the ballasts that hold fluorescent tubes are all considered hazardous waste when no longer in use, and should be disposed of carefully, especially in the case of breakage. LEDs may also contain small amounts of hazardous materials, but thankfully, no mercury, and need to be properly disposed as well, though the number of waste management centers that accept LED bulbs for recycling is still small.

Disposing of Old Bulbs

When it comes to recycling the smaller bulbs used for your home, the answer might be as simple as checking with your local recycling company or finding a mail-back service from your distributor. Many municipalities have incorporated CFL recycling into their solid waste management, and if your city hasn’t, you can go online and find any number of CFL and fluorescent recycling services at your fingertips. The best part is that unlike old incandescent bulbs, most CFLs and fluorescents (and LEDs) are made from recyclable parts, even if they contain hazardous material. Many materials in the bulbs can be reused when they make it to proper waste collection agencies or organizations. Additionally, many states are requiring commercial, industrial, and government facilities to recycle their fluorescent and HID lamps today.

The important thing to remember is not to toss them into the trash or recycling bin without contacting someone, first. If the bulb breaks, it releases trace amounts of mercury into the environment, and though this amount is small, it can still be dangerous to our wildlife, waters, soil, and in some cases, our own bodies. In many states, it’s even illegal to toss out mercury-containing lamps improperly because of the potential soil and water pollution those bulbs could produce in landfills, as well as in transit.

You can visit many websites online for more information, including the EPA’s website,, and to search for local disposal and recycling programs for your fluorescent bulbs. A quick search will also pull up your local on-site pick-up options for the safe and proper collection and recycling of your lamps. There are also mail-in programs offered through companies like FedEx. Through these companies, you can order materials and once the boxes are full, mail them to the proper place for recycling.

Bulb Disposal Products

There is another option: a bulb disposal product! These may be more affordable for disposing of commercial lights if you aren’t working with a free take-back distributor. Bulb disposal products help properly crush the bulbs in a safe container until they can be taken and sorted for recycling or disposal. These products can reduce labor and save up to 50% on recycling costs, while also minimizing storage space. Energy Avenue will soon be offering lamp disposal products, so stay tuned!

As always, you can call us at 1.800. 482.0303 for all your lighting and electrical needs. We’ve been in this business for 30 years and are happy to answer any of your lighting and disposal questions.

About the Author

J. Hunt

J is the realest in the lighting and electrical supplies game. He is a seasoned professional who is passionate about providing his customers the highest quality products & service. At Energy Avenue we are in the business of connecting people to their projects.
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