Two-thirds of lightbulbs not recycled, creating potential health hazards

November 30, 2020

Millions of lightbulbs are being dumped in general waste bins in Ireland every year, potentially exposing hidden health hazards and sparking a new recycling plea.

Only 3.2 million of the estimated 10 million bulbs sold last year were recycled – meaning up to 6.8 million could have been lost to landfill via household rubbish bins, according to Waste, Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Ireland.

This has also created a health and environmental hazard as many are fluorescent and compact fluorescent lamps (CFL), which contain small traces of chemicals like mercury.

“When you dispose of fluorescent and CFL bulbs in your regular rubbish, the risk of bulb breakage is high,” said Leo Donovan, CEO of WEEE Ireland.

“If broken, these bulbs can release harmful mercury vapour and metal dust into the air that can be hazardous to health and the environment.”

It is estimated that 40% of Irish households get rid of lightbulbs in their general waste.

WEEE Ireland is now asking everyone to reverse the damaging trend of any bulbs ending up in landfill so that metals and glass can be recovered for further use in manufacturing.

“Virtually all components of light bulbs can be recycled, while any hazardous materials are separated and treated in an environmentally friendly way,” said Mr Donovan.

“Householders and small firms can recycle their waste lightbulbs free of charge by returning them to their local hardware or lighting store, bringing them to their nearest local authority recycling centre or asking their lighting installer to return waste lightbulbs to their wholesaler.

“100% of waste lighting equipment returned is recycled here in Ireland at Irish Lamp Recycling in Kildare.

“As households across the country put up their Christmas trees, now is also the perfect time to recycle old and broken Christmas lights that no longer work and may have been sitting in boxes and drawers since last year or even years before that.”

WEEE Ireland offers the following advice if you accidentally break a CFL or fluorescent bulb.
• Ventilate the area immediately by opening all windows.
• Carefully clear up the broken bulb using stiff cardboard to “scoop” up the material.
• Avoid brushing and vacuuming since this could raise the dust and increase the safety risks.
• Be sure to wear appropriate PPE to protect against respiratory injury from dusts and vapours as well as other appropriate PPE to guard against cuts from sharp debris.
If a person becomes unwell as a result of contact with a broken lamp, the emergency services should be called immediately.


Media information:
Bernice Burnside,, 087 233 7366

Available for interview: Leo Donovan, CEO, WEEE Ireland.
Please contact Bernice Burnside 087 233 7366 to arrange.

About WEEE Ireland
WEEE Ireland (Waste, Electrical and Electronic Equipment) is a not for profit organisation, founded by Producers of electrical and electronic appliances to help them comply with their Extended Producer Responsibilities (EPR) imposed by the EU Battery Directive 2006/66/EC and WEEE Directive 2012/19/EU.
WEEE Ireland manages the collection of household e-waste, lighting and solar PV equipment and batteries from authorised collection points for recycling and recovery, on behalf of over 1,100 producer members.
WEEE Ireland’s objective is to provide cost effective quality compliance for producers to meet the requirements of the regulations whilst minimising the cost to the consumer.
WEEE Ireland supports indigenous recycling facilities with WEEELABEX (European quality recycling standards) certified recycling partnerships.
There are a number of recycling operators certified to the WEEELABEX standard on the Island of Ireland: KMK Metals Recycling Tullamore, Irish Lamp Recycling Athy, ENVA Toomebridge fridge recycling in Northern Ireland and Wistek in Cork.

Filed Under:   Electrical Recycling