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Can standard incandescent (i.e., non-energy-efficient) light bulbs be recycled? If so, what is the best way to recycle them?

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I assume you are talking here about incandescent light bulbs.

From looking around the Internet and from my personal experience, here is what I can say:

  • In the countries I have lived in (France and Australia), I have always read that incandescent light bulbs should be thrown in the general waste bins.
  • These kinds of specific recycling streams really depend on what is available locally. Search for organisations specialised in recycling less "conventional" kinds of waste in your area.

  • I understand that, at least in developed countries, this kind of technology is getting replaced by more efficient light bulbs, which means that the availability of such recycling services is deemed to decrease over time.

  • The glass part of the bulb is so thin that the appeal to recycle it is low. I am not sure about the cap (metal) part and the wires, but again, it might be too little an amount to justify the inclusion of a separate stream in the existing recycling schemes.

  • There is the option of recycling at home: a search with the terms "light bulb upcycling" on any search engine will yield a number of great ideas to achieve that (including nice-looking flower vases). However, the glass might be dangerous to manipulate.

  • +1 for upcycling idea. You could make them into an ornament of some type! – Tim Malone Apr 25 '16 at 9:01
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I received a similar question on my own website a while back, and was surprised when I researched the answer. I thought it was mostly newer technology light bulbs that were recycled to avoid ewaste, etc, but my research indicated that some places will recycle incandescent bulbs as well.

If you're in the United States and looking to put them in your curbside bin, the answer is almost definitely "no," but you might look for a home improvement store in the area. Try searching Earth911 for CFL recycling, and you'll get a list of the ones in the area that accept those bulbs. I made a few calls regionally to places that accepted them, and they said they also accept incandescent bulbs. That said, who knows what they do with them, and if they'll just throw them away when they sort the bulbs or not. But you might call one in your area and find out.

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