Out Like a Light: Bulb Recycling 101
Technology is changing faster than ever. This is even true with lighting. Upgrading to LED is a no-brainer. But what to do with your old bubs? It depends on the type.
See list of bulb recycling options below.
The lighting timeline: an incandescent, CFL and LED (left to right).
Odds are your house still has a handful of these. For years and years, they were the most common light bulb. You may be able to distinguish them by the metal filament. If you give them a light shake, you’ll hear a faint tinkling.
You may be tempted to put these in your recycling bin along with other glass products. But wait! The glass is different than that of bottles and jars, and the bulb has metal parts. Throwing a lightbulb in your household recycling can actually contaminate the glass load and prove problematic for the glass production process.
The best bet: throw these in the trash. They are free of toxic materials or heavy metals.
These are a version of the incandescent bulb. Like incandescent bulbs, they belong in the garbage.
Compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs):
These bulbs are best known by their curly-cue design. They were popular a few years back as a more energy-efficient option (before LEDs dethroned them as the efficiency champions).
Take care when disposing; these bulbs contain a small amount of mercury, a substance that is bad for the environment and human health. The safest option is to take CFLs to a drop-off location or hazardous waste center to make sure the mercury is properly disposed of.
- Aspen: City of Aspen Environmental Health Office at 2nd floor of City Hall (free); Alpine Ace Hardware (free); Pitkin County Landfill ($1/bulb)*
- Carbondale: Ace Hardware of Carbondale (free)
- Glenwood Springs: Lowe’s of Glenwood Springs (free); South Canyon Landfill ($0.75/bulb)
Like CFLs, these bulbs contain mercury so they they do not belong in your recycling bin or trash. They should also be taken to a drop-off location to safely extract the mercury.
- Aspen: Pitkin County Landfill ($0.50/foot)*
- Glenwood Springs: South Canyon Landfill ($0.50-1.75/foot)
Your strings of burnt-out holiday lights can be recycled to separate the copper wire from the plastic for reuse. The Pitkin County Landfill accepts strings of lights year-round at no cost. There is also a drop-off bin at the Rio Grande Recycling Center and local hardware stores may accept them seasonally.
Light emitting diodes (LEDs):
These contain recyclable materials that can be salvaged and reused, like aluminum. Unfortunately, they also contain toxic elements, like lead and arsenic. Recycling is the best option for the environment. However, it’s not simple to do.
The South Canyon Landfill in Glenwood Springs is the only collector in the Valley, accepting bulbs at $0.75 each. Brite Ideas will then sort materials and prepare them for reuse.
If you are unable to make it to the South Canyon Landfill, then these bulbs should be tossed in the trash.
The silver lining? They have a significantly longer lifespan than incandescents. That means you will buy fewer lights and send less waste to the landfill. And, local resource managers are working to develop better recycling options in our community.
The Town of Carbondale offers an annual community waste-collection day. The Pitkin County Landfill offers robust recycle and reuse programs for all kinds of waste. Sign up for CORE’s e-newsletter to stay up to date on the latests Green Events and news like this.
* Pitkin County residents receive a $100 credit for drop-offs annually.
** Recycling is available for Holy Cross Energy customers only.