Recycle Ballasts for Cash: Definitive Scrapping Guide

by Erin Schollaert

Updated

If you own a boat or work repairing electronics or scrapping older machines or lights, you may have ballasts on hand that you don’t need anymore.

These are intricate pieces of equipment, and you wouldn’t be the first to try to recycle ballasts for cash! Unfortunately, only 12% of working electronics get recycled or reused.

Although not everyone has the drive to make money scrapping fluorescent light ballasts, there are some things you can do to make it pay.

Can You Recycle a Ballast?

A ballast is a vital part of any fluorescent or LED light.

It monitors how much electricity is getting through and ensures the lighting stays stable, and doesn’t release too much or too little energy at any time.

These are intricate pieces of technology that can be costly to replace when they go south, but many get thrown away despite still having use left.

What Safety Should I Be Aware Of?

If the lighting was built before 1980, you have to pay close attention to it. Most older light ballasts may have contained polychlorinated biphenyls (also referred to as PCBs).

These are harmful to human beings and our surroundings, so their use was halted, and they were made illegal.

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If you find a lighting unit that may contain this, the TSCA says you can throw it away if it’s not leaking; otherwise, it should be incinerated. Do not sell lighting ballasts that are built before 1980.

How Do I Know If It’s Working

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If a ballast has gone bad or stopped working, it’s going to show several symptoms.

These are the things to watch out for:

  • Light flickering
  • Buzzing noises
  • Low light output
  • Inconsistent lighting
  • Delayed lighting after being switched on

You can check a ballast by turning on the light switch, seeing how the light behaves and deciding if it exhibits any of these symptoms.

What Laws Should I Be Aware Of

PCBs can enter the bloodstream through the skin, so there are some strict regulations on any items that may contain them.

In addition, some areas within the USA require specific actions to discard ballasts that contain PCBs, so research your area.

Generally, don’t try to sell a ballast if it’s older and it’s not marked whether or not it has PCBs. But, again, it’s better to protect yourself legally than risk guessing incorrectly.

Conversely, recycling old computers for cash has less limitations, so there are plenty of other ways to earn money from recycling.

Do Ballasts Have Scrap Value?

If you’re throwing out some lights or renovating a home and don’t want to waste everything that gets demolished, you may look at a light and wonder if it’s worth it.

These are the things to consider when deciding if you should go for it and save them.

Most Valuable Ballasts

Both fluorescent lights and HID (high-intensity discharge) lights require ballasts to handle the amount of power they put out.

Depending on their age, and their casing, even if they have to be scrapped, ballasts can be worth a couple of dollars. 

According to current listings, if you can resell one that’s in fantastic condition, you can often get $13 to $20 for the average ballast! These are ones in great condition.

Ballasts That Are Worthless

Ballasts that are showing their age aren’t going to be worth as much.

Ones that are less than forty years old and flicker, buzz, let out poor lighting, and wait after turning them on, maybe better broken down for parts.

Most good ballasts have a couple of dollars of copper and iron within them. You can extract these safely, but be completely sure that they have no PCBs before attempting it.

If a ballast is damaged and doesn’t work while also not having enough copper to make it worth it, in some instances, it’s not worth repairing or trying to fish metal out of.

What May Affect The Value

There’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to pricing.

Instead, these are the things that will influence how much ballasts are worth and how much you can sell them for.

  • Does the light misbehave at all?
  • How much voltage does it need?
  • How quickly does it turn on the light?
  • How many types of light can it work with?
  • What condition is it in?

Although you more than likely won’t have the original packaging for selling it, having access to that can also increase the value of the item since it will make it seem newer.

Just like it’s possible to sell a car to a junkyard for great money, you need to have a strong understanding of the do’s and don’ts when scrapping something if you want top dollar.

Who Buys Ballasts?

The best way to find a buyer is to understand who they are and what they want. So who are these buyers who want ballasts?

How can you find them? These are the hotspots where they do their shopping and who they are.

Shoppers On Auction Sites

On sites like eBay and Amazon, used ballasts can sell in a matter of days. As of this article being written, the average ballasts cost between $10-$20.

This gives you the chance to gain enough back to make disassembling some lights worth it depending on the project. This is also the best option for selling sterling silver flatware and similar types of items.

Shoppers On Local Sites

On local listing sites like Craigslist or Facebook marketplace, these can take longer to sell, but you can often ask for more money for them.

Some people even make money at flea markets selling ballasts.

For example, upon looking for ballasts in three major cities (NYC, Houston, and Los Angeles), multiple ballasts have been listed anywhere from $20-$100 depending on the size of the light fixture needed.

Although it may seem like a last resort, these sites can help connect you with the right people.

Electrical Equipment Recycling Company

Every major city has four to five different electrical equipment recycling companies that are always competing to beat their competition.

Unfortunately, these companies try to buy for the lowest price possible since they need to resell items. If you’re desperate to sell off your items as quickly as possible and don’t mind losing a small amount of profit to it, this could be a great option!

Otherwise, it’s a waste of your time, and you should avoid it.

Where to Scrap Ballasts?

Sometimes a ballast isn’t worth saving, or you realize too late that it’s worthless. If you’re unsure about disposing of them, these are the top ways to trash a ballast safely.

Can You Put Them In The Trash?

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Feel free to trash it if the ballast is younger than forty years old and isn’t leaking anything!

You can take this a step further by containing these types of ballasts in a plastic bag or cardboard box and trashing them together.

If they do leak or are older than forty years, most legal guidelines say to incinerate them, but that can mean different things in different areas.

Waste incinerators are different in every area and may not be available in yours.

What Does Your County or City Say?

If you still need to scrap these and aren’t sure where to get rid of them, you can call your city or local municipality and ask.

Either they’ll know, and they’ll be able to give you clear guidance, or they’ll be willing to research the answer and ensure they give you the correct information.

It’s important not to be terrified just because something may contain PCBs. Simply handling these materials doesn’t mean the carcinogen will leak into your skin or bloodstream.

Of course, you should still be careful and try to dispose of it as quickly as possible, but don’t allow yourself to panic.

Make More Money Scrapping Ballasts

Selling scraps and saved pieces can be a lot of work! These are tips to help you gain more sales, whether you’re trying to turn this into a business or simply save money for car repairs.

1. Try To Gain Repeat Customers

Repeat customers are the lifeblood of any business, especially if you’re selling scrap like used ballasts.

So there are a few universal things every business can do to gain repeat buyers.

  • Offer a high-quality product that works well
  • Ship and deliver quickly and without trouble
  • Answer any questions they have prompt
  • Offer discounts for large or repeat orders
  • Advertise based on the information they give you at check-out

You don’t have to hound them, but you should try to reach these buyers where they are.

2. Ensure All Items Are Cleaned And Well Photographed

Take the time to thoroughly clean and photograph a ballast for its listing.

Although this may cause more work on some units than others, it ensures the stable quality of all of your listings.

In addition, the photos should be well-lit and easily readable to anyone glancing at your listing. Over 75% of online shoppers rely on clear images to decide whether they’ll buy an item.

Recycling Is Always The Second Best Option

If you can sell a Ballast you’ve been working hard on finding a customer for, recycling is always there for you.

Giving scraps a second life and possibly finding another user is fantastic work, but it’s important to remember that not everything can get saved, and sometimes you should let things go.

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About the Author

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Erin is a business teacher and mother of three. When she’s not in the classroom or fulfilling her obligations as an A+ hockey and lacrosse mom, she’s working on her latest article.