What happens to an LED light bulb when it reaches the end of its life?

Thanks to an EU-wide directive (WEEE), electronics manufacturers are required to contribute financially to the recycling of electronic waste. Included in this are LED light bulbs, CFLs and fluorescent tubes. Whilst our products are built to last an average of 10 – 15 years, we want to make sure we can get ahead of the game and put a plan in place for when we get there.

How is a Tala light bulb recycled?

To better understand how an LED light bulb is recycled, we visited the Balcan Lamp Recycling Plant in Norfolk. They have a big machine that quite literally crushes the lamps and separates out parts that can be sold for further refining and recycling.

Out of this process comes crushed glass which is turned into construction aggregate (often used for road fortification) and a bulb cap, from which copper is refined and PCB board is extracted.

Because Tala light bulbs are 47-90% glass (by weight), they are highly recyclable.

Tala Crown Enters separator Crushed glass Bulb cap remains

Mixture of bulb caps that will be sold on to a metal refinery.

 

Because of their relatively recent introduction onto the market and long lifespan, only 1-2% of waste lamps are LED. Most are fluorescent tubes or CFLs. This means that there has not yet been enough demand to create recycling processes dedicated to LEDs and they are still being processed in systems intended for recycling fluorescent lamps.

Why it’s important to recycle your old LED light bulbs

The more LEDs in the waste stream, the more incentive recyclers have to invest in developing machines specialised in recycling LED light bulbs.

How to properly dispose of your bulbs

Incandescent/halogen: Unfortunately these go in the general waste bin because they are not in scope of the WEEE directive.

CFL, fluorescent, LED, discharge: Bring these to your nearest household recycling centre (usually at your local tip). You can use Recolight’s online map to find your nearest recycling point in the UK.

If you need to get rid of a light bulb that still works, don’t throw it away, use a platform like https://www.freecycle.org/ to find a new home for it.