Can you recycle headlights, or must you dispose of headlights bulbs another way?

Eco-conscious car drivers will be happy to know that old headlights are often recyclable. Even if the environment is not your top priority, it’s still important to dispose of your old headlights properly. For the most part, whether or not you can recycle old headlights depends on your city and state.

In this guide, we’ll cover the different types of headlights and how to properly dispose of each one.

Halogen headlights

Halogen bulb headlights have been an industry standard for a long time now, as they are cheap to produce and last a relatively long time. As the name suggests, they are filled with halogen gas, and a typical halogen bulb headlight will last around 2,000 hours. Halogen bulbs also tend to be brighter than incandescent bulbs.

How to dispose of halogen headlight bulbs

Quick answer: in the trash, but ask your local recycling center.

Halogen bulbs are simple for consumers. You can safely throw them away with the rest of your trash, if you’d like. Unfortunately, because they do contain halogen gas, they are not easy to recycle and not all city recycling centers will accept them. It’s a good idea to call your local recycle center and ask if they allow you to recycle headlights, and what guidelines you might need to follow.

LED headlights

LED (light emitting diode) bulbs have many benefits, including environmental ones. They are brighter than halogen bulbs, and tend to last much longer. They are also more energy efficient, making them more environmentally friendly. LED headlights can also last up to 15,000 hours, which is significantly longer than halogen lights—and less work for the consumer because you have to change them less frequently. 

How to dispose of LED headlight bulbs

Quick answer: in the trash, but ask your local recycling center.

Just like halogen bulbs, LED bulbs can be safely thrown in the trash like you would household garbage. That said, sometimes parts of your LED bulb can be recycled, and some recycling centers will accept whole or parts of LED bulbs. Contact your local recycling center to find out what you can do.

Xenon headlights

Even if you don’t know what xenon headlights are, you could probably recognize them on the road. They are the headlights that tend to have a bluish hue, and are particularly bright. These are also called Xenon HID bulbs, which stands for High Intensity Discharge, are made up of multiple types of gases inside. Consumers should also know that xenon bulbs also tend to be more expensive. They’ll last around 10,000 hours.

How to dispose of xenon HID headlight bulbs

Quick answer: it depends if they contain mercury.

Most newer xenon HID headlights do not contain mercury, and are therefore safe to throw away in the trash or recycle if your local center accepts them. However, some older xenon bulbs might contain mercury, so you should double check if you have a very old pair. Mercury is hazardous and toxic, even at very low levels, so it’s not safe to get thrown into a landfill. 

All in all: You can’t recycle headlights of every kind, but it’s worth figuring out the logistics to do your due diligence.

Veronica Camara
Veronica is an independent content strategist, writer, and speaker, partnering with global brands and agencies to solve complex content challenges. Prior to consulting work, she was an in-house content strategist at Charles Schwab. She is currently living in sunny Playa del Carmen, Mexico and works remotely with clients across the USA and Canada.

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    4 Comments

    1. Hmmmm this article felt more geared towards which headlights you can throw away. I was expecting more information on recycling your headlights. Including how, where, and why. The article seemed to focus more on the disposal of the bulbs and not the full headlights themselves. I didn’t feel motivated to try to recycle my old headlights. My take away: I can throw any of my headlight bulbs in the trash as long as they are not older HID bulbs that may contain mercury.

    2. Thanks for this guide. It’s a handy source for the next time I need to replace my headlights!

    3. It’s important to dispose of items properly, and it’s easy to recycle your parts. Depending upon the materials there is almost always a local recycling drop off or monthly pick-up.

    4. A good resource for the disposal of headlight bulbs!

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