How To Dispose Of Light Bulbs


Light bulbs used to be chucked in the bin with other waste for collection in the weekly kerbside collection. These days recycling of light bulbs is possible, and many types of modern bulb should not go into general waste. Let’s take a look in more detail about disposal of light bulbs.

Dispose of older, incandescent bulbs in the normal bin. Energy saving light bulbs contain chemicals that are hazardous to go into landfill with general waste. Modern low energy bulbs should be recycled.

illuminated energy saving light bulb

Can Light Bulbs Go In The Recycling Bin?

Regardless of the type of bulb, we’re not aware of any local authorities that routinely accept light bulbs for recycling. This is due to the complexity of the recycling process, combined with the relatively low number of light bulbs now being thrown away.

Newer style energy saving light bulbs can be recycled, you will need to take them to a recycling point to dispose of them. As mentioned at the beginning of this article, they should never be placed in your general waste bin or recycle bins because they can leak dangerous chemicals.

How Should You Dispose Of Old Light Bulbs?

By ‘old’ light bulbs I am referring to the incandescent varieties that were common before energy saving alternatives were commonplace. They were typically made from glass and metal, often with a visible filament.

You cannot place these in your recycle bins either, however they are safe to place into general waste as they do not use the hazardous materials associated with more modern versions.

What Can I Do With Old LED Bulbs?

LED bulbs can be something of a mixed bag. Some (in fact most) are safe to throw away with household general waste, but that means they won’t be recycled. A better option is to dispose of them in a light bulb recycling bin at your local tip or if they take them near you, your supermarket recycling centre.

Are GU10 Bulbs Recyclable?

Spotlights used in kitchens are typically GU10 bulbs. They’re also popular in other rooms and lamps, however most people know what we’re talking about when I refer to kitchen spotlights!

As with other types of bulb, these have evolved from older style incandescent bulbs to newer energy saving alternatives. The same rules apply to GU10’s, the old standard bulbs should go into general waste, whereas the energy saving ones can be dropped of at dedicated light bulb recycling bins.

Can I Recycle Light Bulbs At Tesco/Asda/Sainsburys/Morrisons?

As I discussed in detail on the page about supermarkets and recycling facilities, the big names are getting better all the time with their recycling options. Light bulbs are a great part of that, and you’ll sometimes find there is a bulb drop off point available at stores.

Where available, the light bulb bins will be in the store itself, usually in the entrance or after you pass through the checkouts, otherwise they will be in the recycling area of the car park where you’ll be able to drop off paper, card, plastic bottles and other recycling.

Unfortunately we’ve not yet reached the point where every supermarket has a recycling zone available, and there are also some that have points for recycling other materials but not light bulbs. The best thing to do is to check the store’s website, although they’re a bit hit and miss with detail.

Here’s a run down of the big supermarket store locators:

If your local stores don’t have options for dropping off bulbs, try your local tip, usually called HWRCs by councils.

Try Your Local Currys Store To Recycle Bulbs

If you have a Currys store nearby (formerly called Currys PC World, PC World, Dixons – the list goes on), you can probably drop off your used energy saving bulbs there.

You’ll find the bins in store, but as they’re often quite large (especially the ones on retail parks), you might need to ask a staff member to point out where they are. Great news too, they tend not to try to sell you Coverplan on spent light bulbs!

Where Else can I Recycle Light Bulbs Near Me?

If you’re out of options, your nearest council Household Waste Recycling Centre (HWRC) will almost certainly accept energy saving bulbs. They’re not always the easiest bins to spot, but they’ll likely be there somewhere, so quiz the site team if you’re not able to spot them quickly.

What Are Energy Saving Bulbs Made From?

As we keep saying you can’t just throw newer style energy saving light bulbs into the general waste wheelie bin, you might be wondering what’s in them that’s so problematic.

CFLs – Compact Fluorescent Lamps

Some of these bulbs fall into a category called CFL, which is short for Compact Fluorescent Lamp. These contain mercury (in powder form) which isn’t the sort of element you want to be handling. If bulbs break then the mercury is exposed to the air. When released, it can dissipate into the air, spreading over a considerable distance, especially indoors.

As a result, mercury release could be inhaled or in some cases cause skin irritation. If you happen to break a bulb at home, it’s wise to use gloves to clear it up and open windows to ventilate the area afterwards.

LED – Light Emitting Diodes

More recently, LED bulbs have gained popularity. These are less problematic in terms of safety, but they do contain circuitry that’s designed to give them near instant brightness. You may remember that the early low energy bulbs took several minutes to ‘warm up’ and reach full brightness, there’s no such problem with LEDs.

When it comes to recycling though, that electrical element moves them towards the WEEE category, meaning they need to be processed carefully to break down those elements for recycling.

Regardless of whether a bulb is CFL or LED based, you therefore need to dispose of them carefully and responsibly to make sure that they’re processed correctly from both a safety and environmentally friendly perspective.

Liam Gifford

I'm Liam. I spent twenty four years on the bins in South Yorkshire and now spend my time on recycling projects. I created this site to use my knowledge of how the rounds work, and what people need to know about getting their wheelie bins emptied every week.

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