CFL and LED bulbs: how to dispose/recycle them

Incandescent, CFL and LED hanging bulbs

Incandescent, CFL and LED hanging bulbs

By Catherine Haug, Oct 21, 2015 (Photo, right, from Recycle Nation (4))

We’ve all been encouraged to use CFL(compact fluorescent light) bulbs because they save on energy consumption. But CFLs contain mercury, the most toxic substance known to man, which means you should not put them in your trash. Also, you cannot put them with your regular recyclables, so what do you do when they burn out?

Is there a better alternative?

Recycle CFLs

Waste Not project (1) lists the following drop-off locations for CFLs:

  • Flathead Electric – 2510 Hwy 2 E, Kalispell – 752-4483, accepts CFLs only
  • Home Depot – 2455 US Hwy 93 N, Kalispell – 755-5333, accepts CFLs only
  • Park Industrial Lighting – 32 Harbin Rd, Kalispell – 752-8396
  • Batteries Plus Bulbs – 215 W Idaho St, Kalispell – 890-2150
  • Two Guys and a Drum (commercial only) – 871-4682

Find more information about CFL bulbs on the DEQ Recycling site (2).

A better alternative

The better alternative is LED bulbs. They:

  • Have come a long way, producing light equivalent to incandescent bulbs, including the warm color.
  • Last a LOT longer than CFLs (up to 50,000 hours, compared to 2,000 hours for an incandescent bulb and 10,000 hours for a CFL). (3)
  • Don’t waste energy in the form of heat. LEDs remain cool, which is not only most energy-efficient, but safer to-the-touch. (3)
  • Save money over the long run, even though they are more expensive up-front.
  • Can be added to your regular trash* when they no longer work.  (3)

*The good news is they do not contain mercury; however, they may contain other toxic heavy metals such as lead and arsenic. Most localities do not provide recycling for LEDs because there are no major LED recycling companies (yet) (3). I look forward to the day when we can recycle LEDs too.


  1. Waste Not Project:
  2. DEQ on CFL recycling:
  3. Rethink Recycling on LEDs:
  4. Recycle Nation: and photo:

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