LED light bulbs have been welcomed as the latest and most effective energy saving light sources. There is no doubt that they significantly cut energy consumption, using a tenth of the electricity consumed by the old incandescent bulbs and less than half that used by the CFLs (compact fluorescent light bulbs) that now are being recommended to replace them. LED lights have such a long life-span, 10 years or more, that very little has so far been written about recycling them when they do eventually reach the end of their useful life, so what is the story? Can LEDs be recycled?

The short answer is that Yes, over 95% of each LED light is recyclable. However because the general public are only recently beginning to switch to LEDs as a domestic lighting option, you may have to do your own research to find a recycling facility in your area that can process them. Certainly in Fluorescent Bulb recycling and Australia there are currently waste management companies that will collect and recycle LEDs for a small fee, and by the time today’s new LED light bulbs reach the end of their lifespan it is very likely that there will be more widespread recycling industry that can deal with them.

Why should LEDs be recycled? Well they contain various heavy metals that are potentially harmful to the environment if they are disposed of in a landfill. Nickel, lead in coloured LEDs and traces of arsenic can all be separated out when the lights are processed in appropriate recycling facilities, but large quantities dumped in a landfill would create a toxic health problem for future generations. If you’re wondering how then can LED bulbs be considered a green option, if they contain toxic materials, consider that the alternative CFLs contain mercury, which is far more hazardous to our health if we are directly exposed to it, as happens when the bulbs break in our homes.

Another important reason why LEDs should be recycled is the re-use of materials. LEDs contain high proportions of aluminium, which is a finite resource in heavy demand, so that the more of it that can be reclaimed through recycling the better. The current recycling process for LEDs reclaims all the aluminium and glass used, which can then be re-used to make new products.

Of the current options available LED light bulbs really are the most eco-friendly, both for their energy-saving and for their recyclability. The only more eco-friendly option is to go to bed at sunset and get up at dawn, so that you don’t need any artificial lighting at all!

So if you are debating whether to retro-fit your home with LED lighting, you can be reassured that all those lights will be able to be recycled, even though it is likely to be ten years or more before you need to deal with that issue.