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Safe & Easy Ways to Recycle LED Light Bulbs (2022)

There are many reasons that you might need to dispose of LED light bulbs, and recycling is a great and safe way to take care of LED bulbs that aren’t working anymore. Many people are not aware that you can easily recycle LED bulbs, unlike incandescent bulbs, because LED bulbs do not contain any hazardous materials.

You certainly don’t want to throw them away because that could result in recyclable materials ending up in the dump. Instead, there are many places you can drop off your LED light bulbs to recycle them instead. Keep reading for all of the details about how and where to recycle LED lights.

Are LED Light Bulbs Recyclable?

Yes, LED light bulbs are fully recyclable and due to the tiny microchips that are used inside them to conduct electrical current, it is always recommended that you recycle them rather than throw them out with the trash. These microchips include trace amounts of heavy metals like lead and arsenic, so it is always wise to dispose of them properly. In some cases, recycling programs also salvage the circuit boards that are inside the LED light bulbs so they can be used for other products.

The US Environmental Protection Agency keeps an up-to-date list of places where you can dispose of these kinds of bulbs so you can find out where the closest recycling location is to your area. Home improvement stores often have lists related to this information as well either online or on-hand if you need some guidance.

Recycle LED Light Bulbs

Usually, you can also take your LED light bulbs to other places like hardware stores and places like Batteries Plus. It can be worth checking with a variety of local companies to see if they will take your LED light bulbs before you drive around too much looking for a place to drop them off. Most people have many options in their local area, as well as access to this option at mass recycling locations that might be run by your county or state.

How Can LED Light Bulbs Be Recycled?

LED light bulbs are sent through a shredder when they are recycled. This breaks up the components of the light bulb so they can be separated. The pieces are then run through separator machines. This sorting process separates glass, plastic, and metal from the debris left over from the destruction of the light.

The metals are the most valuable items in the light bulb and they are the most likely to be able to be used for other products. Copper, aluminum, and other heavy metals might be salvaged from the light bulbs and used to make things like copper wiring, other LED bulbs, and more.

Hopefully, there will be improved processes to collect more of the components of all kinds of light bulbs for recycling in the future, but the recovery of metals is the most common goal for recycling these kinds of bulbs.

Circuit boards have their own metal contents and they are separated from the bulb debris for this salvage process to be completed. This is still a developing process as most machines cannot extract the tiny amounts of metal that are included in this component of the light bulbs. Recovery of even trace amounts of these metals is important and new technologies should make this process more productive in the future.

Where to Recycle LED Light Bulbs?

You can recycle LED light bulbs at many places. This makes the process of recycling these products very straightforward. The best option for most people is to head to big box home improvement stores to recycle their LED light bulbs.

If you have many light bulbs to recycle, BulbCycle is an organization that offers pre-paid recycling kits where you can easily mail in your bulbs to be recycled. You order a pre-paid bucket, fill it up, and then call the FedEx number to have it picked up. It’s a simple and effective way to recycle lots of light bulbs at the same time with minimal effort.

LED bulbs recycle

Some of the most common options for recycling LED light bulbs include:

  • Home Depot
  • Lowes
  • Ikea
  • Ace Hardware
  • Batteries Plus

There are other stores that might also take these kinds of bulbs to recycle them. You might find that other large stores in your area will take these bulbs and dispose of them for you. You might need to call around if you do not have a home improvement store in your area to see if other kinds of outlets will take these products.

Batteries Plus stores can usually take old LED lights but they will only do so for a fee. Hardware stores will also take them frequently as well but also for a charge of some kind. Municipal safety departments are another good choice to look into and they will almost always take LED and CFL recycling of various kinds. The drop-off locations are often not open every day and the location for drop-off might change as well. You might need to check with your city to see where these places are and what times they are open.

Holiday string lights that contain LED bulbs can also be recycled through all of these options despite the addition of the strings in the device.

What to Do Before Recycling LED Light Bulbs?

To prepare your LED light bulbs for recycling, there are a few simple steps that you need to take. You can easily prepare these products to be recycled before you drop them off. Christmas lights might need the most preparation but that is only because they are often attached to other items.

  1. Turn off the lamp or the light and then remove the bulb from the fixture.
  2. Wrap the LED bulbs in a way that prevents breakage during transport.
  3. Remove string lights from displays or the Christmas tree before dropping them off.
Safely dispose LED light bulbs

Common Questions about Recycling LED Light Bulbs

Can I recycle LED light bulbs in my curbside recycling bin?

No, you cannot recycle LED light bulbs in this way. These products are recycled in unique ways that they need to be dropped off at a location that handles these kinds of materials specifically. Taking your LED light bulbs to a recycling location is the only proper way to make sure that they will be recycled.

Can you throw LED light bulbs in the trash?

The trouble with throwing away LED light bulbs is that they can be recycled to prevent unnecessary waste, so you will want to explore the process of recycling in your area. It takes just a little bit of effort to recycle your LED light bulbs and it’s worth it to prevent throwing them in the trash.

Are LED light bulbs household hazardous waste (HHW) like CFL bulbs?

No, LED light bulbs are not considered to be hazardous waste (HHW). CFL bulbs contain mercury and argon which is why they need to be thrown away at HHW drop-off locations. Despite not including HHW wastes, there is still a risk that some of the components are toxic and should not be included in regular garbage that you are disposing of.

Is it against the law to throw away LED light bulbs?

While it is not illegal to dispose of LED light bulbs in this way, it is strongly discouraged. LEDs are best disposed of at proper drop-off locations. You will be sparing the environment from possible harm and making sure that the metals and other products that can be recycled are removed from the LED bulbs that you are disposing of for future use. LED light bulbs are one of the only light bulb styles that yield recyclable materials, so it is worth making sure that you dispose of them properly to protect the environment and help with recycling in your area.

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