LED lights have presented one of the biggest shifts in home lighting in recent years, with most homes now making the switch to these energy-efficient bulbs and moving away from the incandescent bulbs we relied on for so long.
These bulbs are not just used in the home but commercial and industrial settings as well, with the whole world eager to make a change that will be better for the planet.
Although they’re better for the environment, and your household budget, when it comes time to replace them, what do you do?
Not many people know how to dispose of LED bulbs the right way, but recycling them should be your first priority.
Can you recycle LED lights and how is it done?
The average household LED lightbulb can be recycled, and it’s recommended to do so as a more sustainable and environmentally friendly option. Over 95% of these bulbs are made with recyclable materials and dedicated programs that ensure the process is done correctly.
Throughout your life, you’ll likely go through many LED lights in your home and office, and thus have to throw just as many away.
Learning the basics of how to ensure they’re recycled correctly is essential, and it’s one simple way you can do your part to live a greener life and with more sustainable products.
The Difference Between LED and Other Lights
If you’re yet to jump on board with the LED revolution, it’s probably because you’re not yet aware of just how much better they are.
Not only are these lights more environmentally friendly, but they offer you loads of benefits as well, so check out how they stack up against the competition.
Although more expensive, the biggest benefit an LED lightbulb has is that it lasts longer.
The average LED light will run for 100,000 hours of continuous use or 10 years roughly, and won’t start to fade or blink in and out like an incandescent bulb.
Incandescent bulbs have filaments that create heat and light, giving the glow that these bulbs give.
An LED light only uses electrons that create photos, which is the light we see, and they give off virtually no heat. This is one of the main reasons why they’re able to run with a lot less electricity.
A bright flood LED light uses around 12 watts of power at its highest power, while a comparable incandescent bulb uses 50 watts.
The most obvious difference between the two is how much more energy-efficient an LED bulb is, and it’s capable of making a brighter light with much less power.
How Environmentally Friendly Are LED Lights?
One of the biggest differences that LED light bulbs have compared to incandescent bulbs is their energy efficiency, and this has helped to propel them as the number one choice in homes around the world.
An LED bulb uses more than 75% less energy than standard bulbs, and with the option to use them dimmed or at lower power levels, this increases even further.
The recyclable nature of LED lights is another point scorer for them in the green department, and it means you can feel good about your choices when it comes time to dispose of them.
Unlike other types of globes and bulbs, LEDs don’t contain any hazardous materials, so you could even throw them in the trash if you wanted to, but that wouldn’t be as eco-friendly as recycling.
When you’re looking to make a home as environmentally friendly as possible, aside from solar lights, this is the best option.
They’re energy-efficient and recyclable so they tick two important boxes, and don’t cost that much more than incandescent bulbs these days, so you’re not going to notice a difference here.
Can You Recycle LED Lights?
Another major bonus of using LED lights is that when they no longer serve their purpose, you can have them recycled.
However, it’s not as simple as tossing them in your recycling bin and putting them out for curbside collection, even if they are made with loads of recyclable materials.
If you do decide to recycle your old LED light bulbs, you’ll want to make sure you’re following the correct steps.
First, you should contact the city or state recycling programs to find out about their rules, and ensure that you’re following them. There are likely specific places to drop them of or rules on how to pack them or throw them away so that it’s safe for you and everyone else.
In general, the process of recycling LED lights is packaging up the bulbs and having them either collected or sent away, ensuring that none of them smash or crack.
For businesses and other facilities that use large amounts, it may be possible to get a dedicated recycling bin that you can use to store old LEDs, which can then be collected at set intervals in the future.
If you’re a domestic user of LED lights, you have lots of options as well. Some programs take deliveries of old bulbs at no charge, so you can send your LED lights through the mail to have them recycled correctly.
Otherwise, local community recycling programs will be able to direct you to drop off facilities so you can take them there yourself, or may even arrange for pickup if you have enough.
The Process of Recycling LED Lights
An LED light bulb has a lot to offer in the recycling stage, which is why it’s recommended to take this extra step and make sure you recycle yours.
Once it reaches the recycling facility, there are a few different methods they can use to break it down so they can retrieve all of the parts that can be used again, including shockwaves and manual parting.
Regardless of the method used, the recycling plant can extract the most important parts and materials to recycle them separately.
These include the housing that is made of glass, a heat sink made from aluminum or ceramic, various cables and wires made of copper, and materials like gallium and indium found inside the diodes.
Although there are recycling facilities out there that deal with LED lights, it is still an emerging practice, and new methods are being tested and introduced all the time that can make it more efficient.
As LED lights themselves are still a relatively new consumer product, it’s clear that in the future these processes will be a lot easier, and so too will finding somewhere that can take donations of LED lightbulbs for recycling purposes.
Recycling LED lights is a safe process when done correctly, which is why it’s so important to get the first steps right.
The logistics end of this process is imperative and ensures the globes stay in good condition that makes them easier to recycle. Therefore, you should always adhere to the guidelines and steps put in place by recycling programs and facilities, to ensure the job is done right.
The goal of recycling anything, and not just LED light bulbs, is that it gives us materials that can be used to make new things.
This prevents the development and collecting of new materials, which puts a significant strain on the planet and comes with a range of other negative side effects as well. When it comes to LEDs, numerous materials are valuable, so getting it right is so important.
Recycling Other Types of Light Bulbs
Although the ultimate goal for home and business owners is to make the switch to a fully LED lightbulb way of living, it may still be some time away.
If you have other types of lightbulbs in the house and want to know how to recycle them, there are possibilities, so check out this list of other types of lights and whether or not it’s achievable.
Halogen light bulbs
These light bulbs are commonly used in outdoor lighting and vehicles, but these days are being replaced with LEDs more and more.
When it comes to recycling them, a halogen light bulb is made predominantly of quartz glass but they shouldn’t be thrown with your other glass recyclables. Just one broken bulb can ruin the entire load, so you need to take them to the correct facility for recycling.
Incandescent light bulbs
The incandescent light bulb was once the most common type of household lightbulb, but their high use of energy has made them incompatible with today’s world.
Although they are technically able to be recycled, the process is detailed and it’s not usually worth the effort to get what can be salvaged from them. Therefore, if you have an old incandescent bulb that needs to be disposed of, throwing it in the regular trash is best.
Fluorescent light bulbs
Fluro lights were once huge, and you can still find them in a lot of indoor and outdoor settings today.
However, fluorescent and compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) both contain mercury which makes them harmful to humans, so it’s not as simple as throwing them in the trash or using your regular recycling bin when they need to go.
Some states in the US require you to recycle them at a dedicated facility due to this sensitive nature, and this is the only route you should consider taking when it comes time to dispose of yours.
Make Your LED Lights As Green As Possible
After you install LED lights at home but before they run out and reach the recycling stage, there’s still a lot you can do to ensure they’re operating at their most energy-efficient.
Here are some tips you can follow to be earth-friendly with your lighting, and ensure your habits aren’t making a negative impact.
Turn off unused lights
We’re all guilty of leaving lights on in rooms when we’re no longer there, and walking away from them and forgetting that they were even on.
Once you get into a habit of doing a quick check of the house to see that unused lights aren’t being left on, you’ll never have to give it a second thought and the practice will come naturally.
Make use of natural lighting sources
During the day, there’s no good reason why you should have to use any lights inside the house. With a few smart window dressing choices you can get enough sunlight from outside to illuminate the home, and when the sun goes down, consider going natural with candles or fire.
If you’re watching TV, there’s no need to have lights on as well, as you’re seeing everything you need to without them.
Install a dimmer switch
In rooms that could make good use of one, you should consider installing a dimmer switch for your LED lights.
These lightbulbs are known for being some of the brightest around and being able to dim them down to even half strength can save a whole lot of energy, without the difference even being noticeable to you.
Connect to your smart home
Smart tech and appliances are about more than just convenience, and many of these devices have features devoted to being energy conscious.
You can start with just a few smart lighting devices at home and see what difference they make, with options like being able to turn them off remotely or check how much energy they’re using.
The Future of Lighting for Energy Efficiency
LED light bulbs are at the center of many changes that spell a more eco-friendly world, whether it’s the methods we use to recycle them or how we use them in the home.
The development of smart homes has found new ways for LEDs to be used, including the ability to color change, dim and brighten, and be controlled by your smart home hub or smartphone.
Recycling methods are being introduced that will make the process more efficient, and having ways for people to easily deposit their bulbs to be recycled means more people will be committed to doing so.
The more convenient it is for people to recycle, the more likely they are to do it, with LED lightbulbs being a major area that could do with improvement.
In the future, more and more people will make the permanent switch to LED lights thanks to government initiatives. The California Energy Commission made a monumental decision recently to ban the use of almost all incandescent bulbs as of January 1st, 2020.
After this time, if a household needs to replace a bulb it must be done with an LED one, which signals a major shift in the way everyone does their part to reduce their reliance on the power grid.
Recycling is one of the most important things we can do as consumers, and understanding the processes and correct way to do it is imperative.
With the right steps, we can ensure that the goods we use are then repurposed into something else, further lessening the strain on the planet. If you’ve always wanted to know more about recycling, check out these FAQs for information on how it all works.
How Do I Package Recyclables at Home?
The best way to prepare a recyclable product is to place it in your bin for curbside collection, provided it is one of the accepted goods or materials.
You should never place recyclable materials inside a plastic bag, and if it’s something like an LED light bulb that has the potential to shatter, keeping it protected with paper or another type of eco-friendly packaging is ideal.
What is the Easiest Thing to Recycle?
Not all products are as simple to recycle as others, and sometimes the process is quite detailed.
When it comes to home recycling efforts, making sure your plastic bottles are in the right bin is a huge step, as the process of making new plastic takes about two thirds more energy than recycling it.
Not only that, but plastic bottles are easy to collect and place in the bin without breaking, so it’s something everyone should be committed to doing.
Can You Recycle Milk Cartons?
There is a common misconception that some types of cartons purchased at the supermarkets can’t be recycled, but this is not the case.
Choose only brands that ensure their products can be recycled and look for the recycling label to show you which of these do.