Today I spent 15 minutes of my time to drop off burnt-out incandescent light bulbs at the only place in town that accepts them. I was charged $1/bulb for helping the planet. The cashier told me to keep my receipt for "tax purposes", but was unable to tell me what kind of tax benefit I can claim.

The organization where I dropped the bulbs is considered a non-profit charitable organization.

So, is this deductible in any way?

(Of course this is backwards. To motivate people to recycle, a consumer should be paid back a deposit that is factored into the manufacturing cost. Oh, well.)

  • 5
    Can you share the name of the place you found? Incandescent recycling seems uncommon.
    – Hart CO
    May 24, 2017 at 14:34
  • 1
    It looks like batteries plus recycles a very wide variety of light bulbs. If there's a location near by, that might be a better option than paying to recycle your bulbs. May 24, 2017 at 14:52
  • 2
    Thanks, I missed that option. Note that their website says "Fees may apply". (Getting to the closest location to me would involve spending a good hour of my time though.)
    – Boris Bukh
    May 24, 2017 at 14:58
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    I'm kind of skeptical about them being recycled, they might have some people who re-purpose them, but there's so little glass that it seems unlikely that they can be effectively recycled.
    – Hart CO
    May 24, 2017 at 23:40
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    @Mehrdad Could be, I don't really know anything about it, just that none of the recycling centers that I've interacted with took incandescent bulbs, and my city specifically instructs they be put out with the trash since they can't get recycled with their other mixed items.
    – Hart CO
    May 25, 2017 at 0:04

3 Answers 3


If they charge a fee to accept an item, it's reasonable to assume the item has insignificant value, so the only tax-deductible bit would be the money you donated to their charity. What you describe sounds like a fee for service, not a charitable donation. The organization should provide a fee breakdown to show what percentage (if any) of the fee is a deductible contribution.

There could be some additional PA-only tax benefit, but I didn't come across anything in my brief search.


They are certainly only suggesting that the money you pay to recycle the bulbs is tax deductible as a donation, assuming that they are indeed a 501(c)(3) non-profit.

Donations of goods are only deductible at fair market value. Light bulbs that no longer light up have no market value, so only the payment could possibly be deductible.


If a business incurs expenses in the process of its trading, generally those expenses are deductible.

Disposing of waste is generally held to be a deductible expense.

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