As an interior designer, I see firsthand something that most people never think much about: Americans use a lot of light bulbs. In fact, the average American household has 45 of them! Though technology has brought us much more efficient and longer lasting bulbs, eventually, they all burn out.
When you imagine the millions of bulbs thrown away every year, you begin to get a sense of the potential impact on the environment. Different bulbs require different disposal strategies, and you’re best off checking with your local waste management and recycling provider about specific requirements where you live. Whatever those may be, here’s a quick and easy run down of how to dispose of any type of bulb you might be working with in your home or office.
If you’ve still got some of these floating around, they’ll burn out soon enough. Incandescents are filled with a gas, but no real toxic material. Still, they are not yet accepted at most recycling centers. For now, just throw these away with the regular trash.
Compact Fluorescent Lamps
You probably know these as CFLs, and probably also know that they last much longer than incandescent bulbs. Because they use mercury, you can’t throw these out or even recycle them. If you put them in the trash, you risk releasing mercury into your neighborhood’s air, soil and water. They require specific and careful disposal, offered by most municipalities through household hazardous waste disposal. Check with your local waste management and recycling provider to find out where you can dispose of these.
Halogens are commonly used in outdoor floodlighting, but are also used in some indoor fixtures. They also use a gas-halogen gas-but like incandescents, are not particularly toxic, so these can safely be thrown into the trash as well.
Light Emitting Diodes, as they’re also known, are mercury-free but do contain small amounts of other heavy metals. Despite their chemical content, you can safely throw these bulbs away in the trash or take them to an approved recycler. Add to that the fact that these bulbs can last 25,000 hours (about 10 years if used for 6 hours per day) and you can see why LEDs are the greenest choice for lighting your home or office.