The downside of el cheapo free bike lights

Sorry, I couldn't resist.
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Bike Ottawa, Safer Roads Ottawa and others have been handing out free bike lights for many years now. As I often volunteer, somehow I always end up with yet another set of lights. I am using the lights myself, or hand them out to visitors who arrived by bike and forgot to bring a light. The lights last about a year and run on two CR 2032 batteries.

Turtle lights

Turtle lights: note that the manufacturer informs on the light not to put it in the waste bin. But where *does* it go?

This week, I was emptying out our kitchen drawer and collected a dozen turtle lights. Most of them didn’t work anymore. I was going to replace the batteries but it turns out it is quite difficult to take them apart and replace the batteries. It is a hassle in most cases to separate the two halves and replace the batteries. So I decided to throw them out instead. But not before I made an attempt to separate the waste streams.


Some of the turtle lights require a tiny screwdriver to get an even tinier screw out. You need to separate the two halves of the light to get the batteries out, which is a royal pain in the butt and not encouraging to replace the batteries.

Half way separating the waste stream

It is interesting to see how many parts a tiny turtle light actually consists of as you can see in the photo underneath.
I have a few piles now: batteries, electronic circuits, plastics and screws. Batteries go to the collection at the library, plastic can’t go into the blue box so it will go into the garbage unfortunately. I am saving the small circuits for the next e-waste collection. I am keeping a small box for metals.

Even a tiny light consists of many different materials

USB lights

I invested in USB lights instead. Better and more sustainable. Flash and non flash settings.

Last year, I switched to USB powered lights. It requires a bit more discipline to keep them charged but it becomes a habit, just like greasing your chain regularly (do you?). I am very happy with the two lights. They are more robust and produce more light and last for years. But they don’t allow for corny recycle faces though.

Sorry, I couldn’t resist

Read about one of the free bike light hand outs at the Corktown bridge in Ottawa here.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.