What To Do With Unused Light Bulbs?

You’ve decided it’s time to switch out your old bulbs for LEDs – sounds simple enough, right?

But what if your old conventional bulbs are still working or, even worse, you have a stockpile of spare, unused bulbs in your garage – now what?

Well, you’ll find yourself in somewhat of an environmental predicament. While LEDs will drastically reduce your energy consumption, this good may be counteracted if you throw your old bulbs away and send them to landfill.

Luckily, there is an alternative.

The best thing to do is to donate old bulbs to a local charity or offer them to friends and family. Alternatively, can list them on websites such as Freecycle, or repurpose them into the likes of decorations, plant pots, or storage containers.

In essence, what I’m saying is that you don’t need to worry about wasting unused light bulbs because there are plenty of available options.

Go ahead and purchase some LEDs, and keep reading this article for inspiration on what to do with conventional-style, unused bulbs.

Offer Them to Friends and Neighbors


As I’m sure any teacher will tell you, everyone learns at a different pace. While you may be ready to start living a more environmentally friendly lifestyle by switching to LEDs, your friends, family, neighbors, and colleagues may not be.

If this is true, then offering them your unused bulbs will be much-appreciated since it will save time and money!

Even if your acquaintances are environmentally-conscious, they may still be using traditional bulbs in some scenarios.

LEDs do not produce a great deal of heat, and in some applications, this is undesirable. Perhaps your friends are hatching eggs in an incubator that relies on the heat of an incandescent bulb?

Drop your friends and family a quick message. What have you got to lose? At the very least they will appreciate the effort and the fact that you think about them.

Give Them Away on Freecycle

If you’re anything like me, I’m sure you can appreciate that it’s hard to say no to free stuff. But it’s a little bit selfish to take and never give anything back. So that’s where websites such as Freecycle.

Freecycle is a non-profit organization where people can give away unwanted items to others in their local community. Think of it a bit like eBay, but there are no bid wars, and everything is completely free.

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For charities, the unemployed and people on a low income, and new homeowners, Freecycle can be game-changing.

There are all sorts listed on the platform from lawnmowers to wardrobes, so I’m sure unused light bulbs will go down a treat. After all, everyone needs lighting.

Donate to a Charity

If you’re looking for the most virtuous thing to do with unused bulbs, consider donating them to charity. This could be through a standard thrift store, i.e., your local Goodwill, or something more specific, like a charity for people with light sensitivities.

Health conditions such as Lupus and Photosensitivity can cause people to develop rashes and lesions, headaches, and their eyes to feel dry and inflamed when exposed to certain types of artificial light.

This is usually due to the high concentration of ultraviolet that the bulbs emit.

For this reason, incandescent bulbs, which emit little to no UV, are extremely valuable. But in recent years, most jurisdictions have banned the sale of incandescent bulbs, so they’ve become a rare currency.

This has obvious and unpleasant implications on people with light sensitivities, so donating unused bulbs can help to make their lives more comfortable.

Should You Throw Away Unused Incandescent Light Bulbs?

waste bin

On the topic of incandescent bulbs, it’s important to note that they are an exception to this guidance. Compared to other conventional bulbs, incandescents are incredibly inefficient.

Using the most energy, incandescent bulbs are short-lasting and waste most of their power as heat.

They’re so uneconomical that it is generally better to deconstruct them and use their parts rather than passing them on to a new home.

In addition to this, most incandescent bulbs cannot be recycled. Back in 2003 and 2012, the EU introduced the Waste Electrical and Economic Equipment Directive, which aims to promote sustainable production and consumption.

The directive makes producers of electronics responsible for collecting, treating, and recovering electronic waste equipment.

But there are two caveats… this directive is only applicable to the EU Member States and doesn’t cover incandescent bulbs.

Nowadays, most countries have introduced bulb recycling initiatives, such as in-store take-back schemes. Still, they only apply to LEDs, CFLs, halogens, fluorescents, and HIDs.

This is because incandescent bulbs contain fine wires that are difficult to separate. It’s generally not cost-effective to do so.

Does this mean unused incandescent bulbs are destined to end up in a landfill?

No, you’ve just got to think outside the box.

Use Incandescent Bulbs To Grow Plants

We all know that plants grow best in natural sunlight, but in winter, when the days are short and dark, this can be difficult.

Grow lamps range in price from $20 – $80, but the unused incandescent bulbs in your cupboard? Well, they’re free!

The spectrum of light that incandescent bulbs emit is similar to that of natural sunlight. They can be used to provide your indoor plants with the light they need to grow and thrive.

However, incandescent bulbs give off a lot of heat. So it’s essential to make sure that your lamp is a sizable distance away from your plants to prevent heat damage.

Repurpose Them

Don’t worry if you’re not a gardening-lover, there are still other options for unused incandescent bulbs. A quick browse of Pinterest will reveal a whole host of bulb-related DIY projects.

The easiest solution is to paint your bulbs and turn them into decorations – perhaps for Halloween or Christmas.

This is something you could even get the kids involved with. From snowmen to reindeers to cartoon characters, there’s tons of inspiration on the internet.

If you’re looking for something more sophisticated and advanced, you could try creating a hanging flower pot, terrarium, or household items such as salt and pepper shakers. Let your creativity run free!

Final Words

Hopefully, this blog post has taught you that one man’s junk is another man’s treasure.

Just because stockpiled conventional bulbs are no longer useful to you does not mean that they are no longer helpful to anyone.

This is likely to become a smaller and smaller problem over the years as LEDs become the norm.

Does your area have any special light bulb recycling initiatives, or do you still find it difficult to dispose of old bulbs?

Have you ever used old bulbs as part of a DIY project? If so, what did you make?

It would be great to get some more inspiration ideas, so please leave a comment down below.

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