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How Do I Dispose of Light Bulbs?

Updated November 21, 2016

Disposing of used light bulbs appropriately depends on the type of bulb. You'll want to preserve the environment by recycling mercury-containing light bulbs, including compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs). Check the programs available in your area to help you get rid of hazardous waste.

Mercury-containing light bulbs

Check your light bulb's packaging to see if the bulb is a fluorescent bulb--including a compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs)--or a high intensity discharge (HID) bulb. Both contain mercury. CFLs show up in schools, hospitals, stores and office buildings. HIDs are found in street lamps, industrial lighting and car park lighting. Check whether the new, energy-saving bulbs you use at home fall under the CFL classification, as nearly all do. The mercury inside these bulbs allows for longer-life and cheaper energy consumption.

Disposal of CFLs and HIDs

Recycle CFLs and HIDs once they burn out to protect the environment from the mercury contained in the bulbs. Look for a hazardous waste centre in your area. Hazardous waste centres always accept mercury-containing light bulbs. Many recycling centres accept light bulbs. Call the centres in your area to see if they'll accept CFLs or HIDs. Under federal law, businesses and industries are required to recycle these bulbs, but the average household owner is not. But you can be environmentally friendly if you'll voluntarily recycle.

Regular light bulbs

Place regular (non-mercury-containing) light bulbs into a small brown paper sack before placing them in a garbage receptacle in order to dispose of them safely. Try using a peanut butter jar or other plastic container to hold the light bulb before throwing it away. Break the bulb in the plastic jar and you could hold three or four before tossing them.

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