Recycle Light Bulbs

The author found a way to recycle light bulbs removed from traffic signals, saving him money and a little energy in the bargain.

| November/December 1980

I don't know about you, but some of my best ideas occur to me at the oddest moments. For instance, while sitting in my car as it idled in front of a stop signal not long ago, I suddenly realized that — in all my years of driving — I had seen only one burnt-out traffic light!

Now city folks may be able to boast a better "sighting" record, since I tend to stay clear of overinhabited places whenever I can. Nevertheless, I have spent my share of time stopped at lighted intersections ... and I've still witnessed only that one bad stoplight.

But, you may wonder, what is the point of this discussion? To state it simply, I've discovered a way to recycle light bulbs ... free!

Traffic light crews, you see, are very efficient. They tend to change signal bulbs long before the units are expected to burn out. So all I had to do was find out what was done with the still-useful replaced lamps, and get my hands on a few of them.

Less than a week later, while driving through town, I found my answer. A workman stood on the corner, preparing to change the bulbs in a traffic signal. Recognizing the situation as a golden opportunity, I pulled over and asked about the fate of the bulbs. The man informed me that they were taken back to the city's administration offices and that — from there — people generally took them home even though the bulbs were an odd size (69 watts).

The next thing I knew, he'd handed me a dozen half used 69-watters! I drove away delighted, knowing I was helping to extend the life of used materials, and that I'd be saving energy by employing the lower-wattage units in my home.

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