Traditional incandescent light bulbs are to be phased out over the next three years under an EU directive to reduce energy consumption and reduce harmful carbon dioxide emissions.

The first light bulb to disappear will be the 100 watt (W) bulb, which will remain on sale only until existing stocks have run out. On 1 September 2010 it will be the turn of the 75 W bulb, followed by 60 W bulbs on 1 September 2011 and 25-40 W bulbs on 1 September 2012. Consumers will have to switch to high efficiency halogen or fluorescent light bulbs, which use between 25 per cent and 80 per cent less energy than an incandescent bulb. The measures are part of efforts by the EU to reduce energy consumption by 20 per cent by 2020.

The measure has been welcomed by environmentalists particularly in view of worrying climate change. However critics claim that the low-energy light bulbs are ugly, expensive and produce unpleasant light. Fluorescent bulbs also contain a small quantity of mercury and so should not be disposed of with ordinary household waste but rather recycled through the supplier.

The ban on the production and imports of traditional light bulbs is in effect across all EU countries.