How to Correctly Dispose of LED Bulbs?

LED light bulbs are a great thing to use for your home’s or workplace’s various lighting needs, but they also present a question that’s foreign to a lot of people – how to dispose of LED light bulbs?

Unlike other types of light bulbs, LED bulbs don’t actually contain any mercury. This does sound like it would make them safer to throw away, however, at the same time, LED bulbs include small quantities of other hazardous chemicals such as lead and arsenic.

So, what does this mean and how to dispose of LED bulbs? Let’s take a look.

Can you simply throw LED light bulbs in the trash?

In most places – yes, you can. LED light bulbs are not only longer-lasting and more energy-efficient than other types of light bulbs, but the fact that they lack any mercury also makes them much more environmentally friendly (or, well – less environmentally unfriendly). However, since they do contain other chemicals such as arsenic and lead, there are certain areas, states, and countries where it’s against the law to throw your LED light bulbs in the trash.

In other words, the first thing you should do before anything else is to get familiar with your local laws about waste removal. Just search online something along the lines of “Can I throw away Led bulbs in [town/state/country]” instead of doing a broad search. For example, here’s what the Sanitation Department of NYC has to say about its recycling laws.

If you don’t find anything conclusive, just contact your local government via phone and ask them directly.

Even if throwing Led light bulbs in the trash directly is allowed in your area, however, it’s still not a smart thing to do. As we said, LED light bulbs do contain small quantities of arsenic, lead, and other materials, most of which can be recycled.

Before we even go there, however, here’s another tip in case you decide to throw your LED light bulbs in the trash – wrap them in a plastic bag that you were going to throw away anyway so that the chemicals are at least contained within it. Yes, this may seem irrelevant as in either way you’ll be throwing the bulb and the bag to the trash, but whatever precautions you can take are always better than doing nothing.

Still, an even better solution is recycling – it prevents the harmful and hazardous chemicals in the bulbs from going into the environment and it brings reusable resources back into the manufacturing process.

Can LED light bulbs be recycled? If so, how does the recycling process work?

So, how to recycle LED bulbs? Well, at the risk of sounding repetitious, the first thing you need to do is contact your local recycling center. Every recycling center has different requirements and specifications about their process so they can best explain what you’re going to need to do. In some centers, LED bulbs are considered safe to recycle but others consider the led and arsenic in them hazardous materials and have special protocols in place for the recycling of such bulbs.

Once you’ve contacted your local recycling center and got the information you need, you’ll next have to get the bulbs to the center. There are several ways in which you may be able to do this:

  • Safely pack the bulbs and bring them to the recycling center yourself.
  • Safely pack the bulbs and mail them to your local recycling center if it’s too far for you to go to personally.
  • Safely pack the bulbs and get them to a recycling bin nearby that you’re sure is serviced by your recycling center.

An additional tip here is that in many cases you should be able to return the burned-out LED light bulbs the online company or hardware store you bought them from. A lot of companies, such as Ikea, have on-site recycling programs for things such as LED light bulbs. That’s because they are expensive to manufacture and it’s often in the company’s best interest to recycle the bulbs themselves. While you’re there, don’t forget to bring your used up batteries as well – you’ll be able to get them recycled too!

So, how should you dispose of LED bulbs?

The best way to dispose of LED light bulbs is recycling, as with anything else. Regardless of whether you’re allows to just throw them in the trash or not, there is virtually no good reason not to recycle your used up LED light bulbs – it’s much better for the environment, it brings resources back to the manufacturing process, thus lowering manufacturing costs, and it can be done together with the recycling of other household items such as batteries and other electrical appliances.

Reuse, reduce, recycle – the 3 Rs of environmental protection are as important for LED light bulbs as they are for other items. And while reusing burned out LED light bulbs for anything other than arts and crafts (with LED bulbs being less suitable for this than other types of bulbs), reducing and recycling are two things that can definitely be done with LED bulbs – they last longer and are much more energy-efficient, thus reducing the amount of energy we use, and, they are also very easy and safe to recycle.


Blogger, editor, developer who loves green living. Interested in photovoltaics and solar lighting. Reviewing solar products since 2013.

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