Solar Lights (Disposal + Recycle Guide)
You’ve had it with your old, store-bought, solar landscape lighting. The lights never stay on long enough, some lights are dimmer than others, there is never enough charge left to light the pathway to your car in the morning, and you are ready to upgrade to professionally installed LED outdoor lights. You have done your research and are ready to make the switch, but you still have all of those solar light fixtures sitting in your yard and need to know how to dispose of them. It just does not seem right to toss this eco-friendly lighting option in the trash, which leaves you to determine how to recycle, reuse, upcycle, or otherwise get rid of your old light fixtures to make room for your new ones.
How to Get Rid of Solar Lights: Give Them Away
If your solar lights are still in working order, the best way to get rid of them is to give them to someone else who can use them. Give them to a friend, sell them at a garage sale, or check with local organizations that might appreciate the donation for a community garden or other outdoor area.
Even if they need new batteries or a little work, someone may be willing to take on easy repairs to get a free or low-cost set of outdoor lights. This will keep your old lights out of the landfill and extend their useful lifespan.
How to Get Rid of Solar Lights: Properly Dispose of Bulbs and Batteries
If you are going to recycle your light fixtures or reuse them for something other than illuminating your yard, you will need to take out the bulbs and batteries and properly dispose of them. The rechargeable batteries in solar lights can be used to power other things in your life, so you may want to keep them. But, if you choose to dispose of them, rechargeable batteries, like other batteries, need to be treated as hazardous materials. This means that they cannot be tossed into your trash bin for curbside pickup. Most areas have regularly scheduled hazardous waste drop-off days or a permanent hazardous waste disposal location set up, so check with your local government to learn your options for disposing of batteries.
If your solar lights use compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) or halogen bulbs, you will need to dispose of them the same way you dispose of the batteries: as hazardous materials. CFL bulbs contain mercury and many halogen bulbs contain tungsten, so neither of these should go in your trash can. You can also read our complete guide to disposing of CFL bulbs.
If your solar fixtures happen to have LED light bulbs, you can dispose of these bulbs by placing them in a plastic bag in your trash bin for curbside pickup. Some areas offer recycling programs, but dedicated facilities that recycle LED bulbs can be difficult to find. You can recycle them at stores like Home Depot, or some online programs offering mail-in recycling. You can also save them until your local government offers an e-waste recycling drop-off day, which most areas offer at least a couple times a year.
How to Get Rid of Solar Lights: Dispose of or Reuse Other Components
As you take apart your solar outdoor lights to remove the bulbs and batteries, you will also have access to other components, such as the printed circuit board (PCB), photoresistor and photocells. If you are particularly handy or have plans for solar-powered projects, you may be able to reuse these components in future ventures. If not, you will need to save them for your next, local e-waste recycling day.
How to Get Rid of Solar Lights: Upcycle, Recycle, Reuse or Dispose of Light Fixtures
Now that you know how to get rid of nearly all of the components of solar landscape lights, you will need to do something with the fixture itself. In some cases, the metal, plastic, and glass pieces that make up the fixture may be recyclable, so that is one option. If parts of your fixtures are not easily recyclable for curbside pickup, you can either dispose of your complete fixtures on an e-waste recycling day, or you can remove all of the components (batteries, bulbs, PCB, photoresistor, photocells) and put the remaining fixture materials in your trash can.
But, before you throw anything away, the environmentally responsible thing to do is to at least consider other options or potential uses for the old light fixtures. For example, could you transform one or more of the fixtures into lantern-style candleholders for your outdoor living area? Could you turn a basin-like globe into a birdfeeder or birdbath? Could you use the stakes as plant markers in your vegetable garden?
If you cannot come up with a creative way to reuse or upcycle your outdoor lighting fixtures, place an ad online to find an artist, solar power enthusiast, or other hobbyist who may have a use for them.