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How to Dispose of Household Light Bulbs

Published in category
by All Gone Admin
Light Bulbs Hanging in House

Most Aussies don’t think twice about throwing away broken and busted light bulbs. When an LED, CFL, or incandescent bulb burns out or breaks, we immediately pay attention to the yellow bin (recycling bin). After all, it is mostly metal and glass, right?

Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as that. If you think about it carefully, light bulbs are among the most tricky waste materials to dispose of.

Short answer: Light bulbs should never go into our recycling bins.

Unlike packaging glass like mason jars and bottles, light bulbs are manufactured differently with different materials, making them more prone to shattering and contaminating your recycling bin. We know what happens to contaminated recycling bins: they get dumped in landfills.

Moreover, the poor disposal of broken light bulbs may leak harmful chemicals such as mercury, arsenic, and lead, all harmful to people and the environment. 

The long answer is that different light bulb types require unique disposal methods. We’ll break down each method and explain how you could recycle various bulbs at home or work.

Incandescent and Halogen Bulbs

Incandescent and halogen light bulbs are the oldest types and are popular in many Australian households and cafes for their warm and aesthetic glow. 

For many years, incandescent and halogen bulbs have been the most common light bulbs for many Australian homes. Both of these now make up a large portion of old light bulbs as newer technologies emerge and replace them, particularly LEDs and CFLs.

Many recycling centres in Sydney and Australia do not accept incandescent and halogen light bulbs. The NSW Environmental Protection Agency has also excluded incandescent bulbs from its list of accepted wastes.

Source: NSW EPA Community Recycling Centres

Contact your local council to learn about any programs that recycle incandescent and halogen globes. 

Otherwise, these light bulbs are safe to throw away in your general waste bin as they do not contain any toxic materials.

Proper ways to dispose of busted and broken incandescent bulbs:

  • A burnt-out incandescent/halogen globe does not contain toxic materials and is safe to be disposed of in general waste bins. Make sure to wrap it in paper or plastic so it doesn’t harm anyone when broken or shattered during rubbish removal.
  • If you have a broken or shattered light globe, carefully scoop up the glass fragments and powder using cardboard or stiff paper. Use sticky tape to pick up the remaining powder on the floor. Place it in a sealable container and throw it into your general waste bin.

Compact Fluorescent Lamp (CFL)

You can easily recognise CFLs with their distinct spiral design. Unlike incandescent bulbs, old CFL globes/tubes contain a small amount of mercury, making it harmful to people and the environment when thrown into the regular waste stream.

In other words, CFLs must not end up in landfills.

Here’s how you can properly dispose of CFL bulbs and fluorescent tubes:

  • Old/busted CFL bulbs should be disposed of in your hazardous waste bin.
  • Many recycling centres accept CFL bulbs. Reach out to your local community recycling centre to know whether you can send it to them for recycling.

LED Bulbs

LEDs are the latest technology in household lighting that packs many advantages over other types of light bulbs.

However, as easy as it is to choose an energy-efficient LED over others, many homeowners need help identifying how and where to dispose of it.

Popular opinion suggests that LEDs contain lead, arsenic, and other harmful chemicals. However, the scientific community has stated that LED bulbs have semiconductors that contain tiny amounts of gallium arsenide and gallium arsenide phosphate.

Both semiconductor materials contain arsenic, but only at nanometre levels, and not much to be classified as highly toxic materials. Generally, the recycling community considers LEDs recyclable as they have rare earth metals and thus have a solid recovery potential.

Hence, recycling LEDs is a better and more sustainable option than throwing them out into landfills, contributing to the growing e-waste problem.

Here are a few tips to properly dispose of and recycle LED bulbs

  • It’s okay to dispose of LEDs in general waste bins, but it’s better to recycle them.
  • Contact your closest recycling centre before sending your old, broken light bulbs to follow their procedures properly.

Cleaning Up Breakages

Throwing away old light bulbs is all fine and easy until you realise you’re dealing with a broken and shattered glass bulb.

Cleaning up light bulb breakages should be performed with appropriate precautions. In case of a bulb breakage, avoid the danger area and wear protective footwear (slippers, shoes) before cleaning up the shards.

Ensure you have removed all pieces of shattered glass, and use sticky tape to pick up tiny shards and glass powder. Wrap the pieces in several layers of paper and dispose of them in your general waste bin and not in the yellow (recycling) bin except for CFL bulbs.

Furthermore, if you break a CFL bulb (containing mercury), you must:

  • Turn off all ventilation and air conditioning units
  • Leave the room for 20-30 minutes before cleaning up the breakage to allow for the toxic fumes/vapour to dissipate.
  • Avoid using a vacuum cleaner to prevent toxic substances from spreading in the air.
  • Wear a protective mask and disposable rubber gloves when cleaning up the shards. Do not pick up the glass pieces with bare hands.
  • Use a stiff-bristled broom and dustpan to sweep up the glass shards. Put them in several layers of plastic bags or a sealable glass jar.
  • Wipe off the breakage area with a damp cloth/paper towel, put the used cloth/towel in the same bag/glass jar, and seal it.
  • Hand the sealed bag/jar to your closest waste recycling or disposal centre.

Call All Gone Rubbish Removals for a Reliable Clean-Up

Cleaning up and disposing of busted and broken light bulbs can hinder your work and daily activities. While you can clean up and dispose of light bulbs and other household waste yourself on a weekend, All Gone Rubbish Removals is here to do the job as soon as needed.

For affordable and reliable light bulb waste removal, call Aaron today at 0427 783 277. We take your safety and ours very seriously and have the expertise and equipment to handle any job, no matter the size. For your next rubbish removal, call us. We proudly serve Sydney, Central Coast, Newcastle, and the Hunter Region.

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