How to Recycle Light Bulbs

Recycling is an important step to keeping planet earth healthy by reducing the hazardous waste our civilization undoubtedly creates. Not only is there a problem with paper, aluminum and plastic, there are other items that are not so easily classified, such as light bulbs.

Everyone uses light bulbs. Imagine all the homes in the world, at least one bulb per room. Now, think of all those light bulbs in a pile, at a landfill. Sure is a lot of waste. Now, add all the fluorescent light bulbs from factories and office buildings, and you will see the importance of light bulb recycling.

Light bulbs can be tricky to recycle, because they are made up of so many components like glass and aluminum. More importantly, we need to take into consideration the inside makings of the light bulb, especially fluorescent, since these are made up of toxins such as mercury. Incandescent light bulbs also contain a high level of lead. So, which bin?

The answer is, none of the above. Light bulbs require a special process for disposal. Did you know that a teaspoon of mercury is toxic enough to contaminate a whole 20 acre lake? And that every year incinerators pollute our environment with around 70,000 pounds of this chemical?

Now, when it comes to your regular old incandescent light bulbs, there isn’t a particular recycling program. You can use them to make a wide variety of arts and crafts, such as Christmas tree ornaments, and try to phase out their use by replacing them with the new, more energy efficient fluorescent kind.

These new light bulbs should be handled with care. When spent, store them in the casing the replacement came in. Make sure you store them in an area where they won’t be accidentally broken. If one does break, store it in a thick plastic bag that won’t be torn, and put it into a box.

Do some research as to where your local fluorescent light bulb recycling center is located. If you are working in a company, check the policies of your supplier. Under current laws now taking place in states such as Maine, the same company that provides you with the light bulbs should take your old ones away and properly handle them.

Another popular and easy option for the proper disposal of said lighting is fluorescent light bulb recycling kits. A company sends you a kit for sorting out the spent bulbs into special envelopes, and gives you a bucket to keep them in. Once the bucket is full, you can call FedEx, and they come and pick up the “toxic package”, delivering it to the proper recycler. You then get a certificate stating that your bulbs were properly disposed of.

More and more states are now making it unlawful to toss these bulbs into the general trash bins. It has been found that each year around 300,000 pounds of mercury leech into our soils from fluorescent light bulbs in landfills, and this toxin then reaches our water. There are easy and efficient recycling options, and hopefully, more people will start to do their part.


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