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The LED Neon Lifecycle: How to Recycle Them - All You Need to Know About Proper Disposal

7 minutes read

The future is here, and it's illuminated by LED neon lights! The rise of LED neon lights as a replacement for traditional glass neon has been significant in recent years. Not only are LED lights energy-efficient and cost-effective, but they also provide better longevity and safety, among other benefits.

However, like all products, they eventually reach the end of their lifecycle, and knowing how to dispose of them is crucial. The improper disposal of LED lights can lead to environmental hazards, such as the leakage of toxic substances that pollute soil, air, and water. So, what can you do to properly dispose of your LED neon lights?

First and foremost, do not throw them in the trash. LED lights are made up of glass (88%), metals (5%), and other materials (7%), including some rare-earth elements that are useful for recycling. Landfills are not an ideal place to dispose of these valuable elements, as they can take years to decompose, causing long-term environmental impacts.

While New Zealand currently does not have large volumes of LED neon lights available for recycling, you can still take the initiative to dispose of them properly. One option is to reuse and/or upcycle them into other items, such as acrylic surface tops. This practice not only helps reduce waste but also creates new opportunities for innovative designs.

Another option is to find the nearest location for recycling soft plastics, including bubble wrap and bags, through your Soft Plastics Recycling programme. These bags can also fit approximately two months' worth of household soft plastic waste, including bread bags, muesli bar wrappers, and glad wrap. The soft plastic that is returned through this programme is upcycled to create long-life fence posts and garden beds by the future posts.

For the thermoplastic components of your LED neon lights, the good news is that they can be melted down and recycled. Most thermoplastics are recyclable and include common materials like Polyethylene (PE), Polypropylene (PP), and Polyvinyl chloride (PVC). If you have a large volume of LED neon lights, you may also contact your local e-waste recycling facility to inquire about their acceptance of LED lights.

In summary, proper disposal of LED neon lights is crucial to the environment, and you can take various actions to ensure their safe disposal. Reusing and upcycling, recycling soft plastics, and contacting e-waste recycling facilities are a few ways to help the planet and support the circular economy. Remember, every small action counts!

"Soft Plastics Recycling
We have been working hard behind the scenes to improve our impacts on the environment, and are so excited to launch our Soft Plastics Recycling programme.

It offers a super simple way for all of our customers to participate in soft plastic recycling, no matter where in New Zealand you are located!

It is easy to get started! You can add a one-off extra to your subscription for a soft plastic recycling courier bag (which is made of 80% recycled plastic), and we will ship it out to you. Please note that this will arrive separately from your Neon Nights delivery. You can then gradually fill this courier bag with ALL of the soft plastic you accumulate in your household. These bags can fit approximately 2 months' worth of household soft plastic waste! When your bag is full, head online to the NZ Post website to schedule a pick-up, or drop the bag off at your nearest post office!

So, what counts as soft plastic? Basically, any plastic that you can scrunch up in your hand counts. In your Neon Nights delivery, bubble wrap can all be placed in a soft plastic bag. Other household items, such as bread bags, muesli bar wrappers, and glad wrap can all be recycled too! You can find more information here. You’ll need to ensure that all of the plastic placed in your recycling bag is empty, clean and dry.

Most importantly, the soft plastic that is returned through our Soft Plastic Recycling programme is upcycled to create long-life fence posts and garden beds by our friends at the future posts. How epic is that!

This is an exciting step in our ongoing focus on sustainability. Our long term goal is to eliminate packaging wherever we can but we wanted to ensure that we were providing a solution in the meantime.

Bubble wrap
Direct customers to recycling bubble wrap at the nearest location.

We have a great range of environmentally friendly boxes available for customers in all stores nationwide, made from recycled content and 100% recyclable.

What are thermoplastic plastics?
Thermoplastics are permanently fusible and can be melted down and recycled. The reason why thermoplastics meltdown so easily is because the molecules have a relatively weak attraction between the chains of molecules. Thermoplastic resins have molecules that are generally not cross-linked, meaning, the resin can be repeatedly melted and reused. Usually, no chemical change occurs when thermoplastic is cured. Thermoplastic resin usually starts out in solid pellet form and changes shape with the addition of heat and pressure. Thermoplastic polymers are more widely used because of their flexibility, so there are, therefore, more of them. Thermoplastic polymers are known as acrylics (Polymethyl methacrylate), fluorocarbons (PTFE or TFE), nylons, polycarbonates, polyethylene, polypropylene, polystyrene, vinyl and polyester.

Features of thermoplastic resins:
High Impact Strength
Attractive Surface Finish
Recyclable / Scrap is Reusable
No Emissions
Can bond to other thermoplastics
Can be moulded or shaped with reheat
Generally softens with heat
More difficult to prototype

Common types of Thermoplastic Resins
Polyamide (PA or Nylon)
Polybutylene terephthalate (PBT)
Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) as Polyester.
Polycarbonate (PC)
Polyethylene (PE)
Polypropylene (PP)
Polyvinyl chloride (PVC)


Thermoplastics. Technically all Thermoplastics can be recycled in some way. Thermoplastics typically include things like fruit and vegetable containers (PET), zip-lock bags, drink bottles, acrylic products, some fabrics, polystyrene and PVC products like airbeds and inflatable swimming pools. This type of plastic is usually described as becoming soft and malleable upon heating returning to its hardened state upon cooling.


Thermosets. Thermoset plastics are generally suited to higher temperatures and are considered much more durable than Thermoplastics. Thermoset plastics are often used in conjunction with other types of materials making them harder to isolate and recycle. Products that typically contain parts made from Thermoset plastics are TVs, aeroplanes, cars, tyres, composite wood products, silicone, vinyl flooring, cement and adhesives

LED is made of glass (88%), some metals (5%) and other different materials (7%). Some metals contained in LEDs are really useful for recycling such as indium, gallium or some rare-earth element (REE) that you can find in the crust. It’s still better to avoid those lights making their way to landfills. There are no special major programs to recycle LEDs for the moment.

Thanks for your enquiry about various plastics.

For recycling to be commercially viable, a large volume of material is required. Because there aren’t masses of the material you’ve described available in New Zealand, there are very limited options for recycling.

On top of this, additives to silicone, acrylic etc. are common and change the chemical makeup and physical properties of the items, which poses problems when it comes to their end of life – they cannot be recycled altogether…

As such, if it is at all possible to do so, I would look to reuse and/or upcycle into other items, such as acrylic surface tops in offices which can be drawn on with whiteboard markers.

The option with LED lighting is more flexible, as some e-waste recyclers may be able to find outlets/uses for the lighting itself and the surrounding material.

Sorry I couldn’t be of more help – feel free to fire some questions back.

Dom Dixon
Sustainability Manager
[email protected]


Hi Isaac,

I am so sorry for the delay in getting back to you on this.

For the acrylic sheeting yes we can recycle that. And for the LED lighting strip that is fine, as long as the LED can be removed from the silicone (you do not have to do this, as long as we are able to and it isn't welded in together)

These can both be recycled in the All-In-One - Zero Waste Box, which can be purchased on our website.

You can order your boxes from our website and they will be posted out to you. The boxes come with a return shipping label attached so when they are full you will just need to seal the boxes and drop them off at your closest post office or you can book a courier pickup.

The price of the box covers the box itself, shipping to you/back to us once full, and also the cost of recycling the contents.

With the purchase of the box, you are essentially paying for the recycling process of the waste you have collected directly.

For more information on the difference between our Free Recycling Programs and our Zero Waste Box check out our blog post here.

To see what happens to your Zero Waste Boxes once we receive them, take a look at a video of the process here.

I hope this helps! Please don't hesitate to get in touch again if you have any further questions.

Thank you for all of your support and happy recycling!

All the best,

TerraCycle Australia
1800 983 324 |

es to acrylic - how much do you have? no to silicone and electronics as our focus is achieving circularity for plastics. However we are not a recycler but product design and manufacturers - so we work by partnering with businesses in a 100% buyback model - they send us plastic waste and buyback beautiful products from us equal in weight.

That said, we are in the early stages of developing premium panels from 100% recycled plastics so I'm open to seeing what acrylic you have.

Ngā manaakitanga
Rui Peng

+64 21 1739 524"

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