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What bulbs can’t be thrown out in the regular trash?

Some light bulbs contain harmful chemicals and hazardous waste that cannot be thrown out in regular trash. This includes compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) which use argon and mercury to generate ultraviolet light which excites fluorescent coating to emit visible light. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), CFLs only contain a small amount of mercury. This mercury is not released when the bulbs are intact, but when they break the mercury vapor is released. 

Other types of bulbs can also contain mercury, so make sure to check the labels. Use the Lighting Facts Label to identify whether or not the bulb contains mercury. It will be clearly labeled as per government requirements and may use the element symbol for mercury as well (Hg).

Mercury is harmful to human health and high levels can impact the brain, heart, kidneys, lungs, and immune system. It also has negative ecological effects, impacting animals and their ability to survive, reproduce, and develop, and can lead to abnormal animal behavior. 

Although there is only a small amount of mercury in these bulbs, it can add up and contributes to the concentration of mercury in the atmosphere from other sources as well. This becomes a global problem as emissions are spread across the globe through natural processes such as jet streams and through rainfall. 

Where do I dispose of light bulbs?

CFLs and other bulbs containing mercury should be recycled as per local guidelines. In Deschutes County, CFLs and other fluorescent tubes are accepted at the Knott Landfill Hazardous Waste Facility. Hazardous waste at the landfill is free of charge for residential users and is open from 9 am to 3 pm on the second and fourth Friday and Saturday of each month. Make sure to check the Solid Waste Calendar to confirm!

Batteries Plus Bulbs is another local option to recycle light bulbs. While bulbs that contain nonhazardous materials can be thrown out in your regular household trash, light bulbs of all kinds can also be recycled. Batteries Plus Bulbs recycle light bulbs for a fee depending on the size and type of bulb, so make sure to check with them to get an accurate quote. 

Recycling light bulbs can help divert waste from the landfill, especially in Deschutes County where Knott Landfill Recycling and Transfer Facility (the only landfill in the county) is expected to be full by 2029. Recycling light bulbs can allow for the raw material to be reused or repurposed. Batteries Plus Bulbs states that they take the bulbs to a partner recycling facility and that 90% of the material in light bulbs is recyclable, so this is a great option to reduce your waste. Batteries Plus Bulbs recycles the following light bulbs:

  • LED
  • Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs
  • Fluorescent Tubes
  • Circular Fluorescent
  • U Bend Fluorescent
  • Plastic Coated and Shatter Shield
  • Incandescent
  • Spot/Flood Lamps
  • Germicidal and UV Lamps
  • Halogen
  • Metal Halide
  • High-Pressure Sodium
  • Mercury Vapor
  • Cold Cathode
  • Ballasts

Other stores and services to recycle light bulbs may be more convenient for you, so make sure to research options that best fit your needs. When it comes to buying light bulbs, try out ENERGY STAR or energy efficient bulbs to reduce energy consumption and replace bulbs less often.