How To Dispose Of Light Bulbs

Safely Disposing Light Bulbs From Your Maryland, DC, Or Northern Virginia Home

What Do To When Your Bulb Burns Out

How to dispose of light bulbs can change depending on the type of light bulbs you have. You can throw most light bulbs like halogens or incandescents right into your garbage can. Others, like CFLs and fluorescent tubes, take a little extra work to dispose of correctly. These light bulbs usually need to be disposed of at a specific recycling site.


“Ugghhh, great, there goes another one,” Brenda says in frustration. “It’s like when one of them goes the rest start following,” she thinks with a frown. She already has a small collection of bulbs ready to be disposed of.

There are just a few problems that need sorting out first.

How to dispose of light bulbs to keep the earth healthier

One of them is there are a few different types of light bulbs to dispose of. “Incandescent, halogen, CFL, and fluorescent tubes,” Brenda mutters under her breath, “if we had any LEDs I bet they’d find their way into this pile too.”

Brenda’s other problem is that she isn’t sure how to dispose of light bulbs. “Thank goodness we’re getting LED lights to replace all of ours as they burn out.”

She can’t just leave the bulbs sitting out and she doesn’t want to store dead bulbs, so Brenda gets online to look up how to dispose of light bulbs.

5 Ways To Dispose Of Light Bulbs

The first bulb Brenda is looking up are halogens.

How To Throw Away Halogen Light Bulbs

“Just throw them in the garbage can, huh,” Brenda says in surprise. “That’s a lot easier than I thought it was going to be.”

The fine wires in the glass are hard to separate, meaning you can’t recycle halogen bulbs with normal glass.

How to dispose of halogen light bulbs

Throwing Away Incandescent Bulbs

“It’s the same as with halogen? Just throwing them away?!” Brenda says, eyebrows rising. She has a lot less work to do than she thought, well, for right now.

How to dispose of incandescent light bulbs

Like with halogen bulbs, incandescents have fine wires in them that prevent them from being recycled with normal glass.

Disposing Of CFL (Compact Fluorescent Lamps) Light Bulbs

“So, I can throw them in the trash even though they have a small amount of mercury in them,” Brenda says flatly. “And if I do choose to recycle them I may have to drop them off somewhere and possibly even pay to recycle them.”

How to dispose of CFL light bulbs

CFLs mercury levels shouldn’t ever be high enough to cause any harm, broken or not. Please handle them carefully anyways. Different counties in Maryland dispose of CFLs differently.

How To Dispose Of Fluorescent Tubes

“Do not throw these away. Finally, a light bulb you can’t just toss in the garbage,” Brenda sighs. Fluorescent tubes are almost exactly like CFLs, right down to the mercury levels. You can even dispose of them in the same places.

What About LEDs?

“Why am I not surprised that you can throw away individual LED bulbs in the trash can,” Brenda says, unsurprised.

How to dispose of LED light bulbs

If it is a retrofit lamp (ie the LED replaced another bulb type) there will be a recycling fee. If they are part of equipment then you’ll need to find out how to recycle that instead. 

Caring For Our Planet, 1 Bulb At A Time

“It might take some driving and a bit of money, but I’m doing my part to help the planet,” Brenda reminds herself as she collects her recyclable bulbs. She grabs her keys and her wallet and heads out to dispose of her light bulbs.

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