This is a picture provided by the Internet. There is a HUGE debate involving “Leave No Trace” and the use of “disposable” items. On a three-day trip Cyalume lightsticks provide an easy battery free method for lighting when you need it. The chemical reaction directly produces light as opposed to providing power that excites a filament. There are fewer points of failure with a lightstick. This makes them more reliable. Now for the part of the conversation that will likely cause an argument.
Lightsticks are MORE ecologically sound than a battery and LED. First, construction of a lightstick takes and produces less in the way of environmental contaminants. The process of crafting multiple metals, chemicals, plastic, and glass is more damaging to the environment than crafting just glass, plastic and chemicals into a light source.
Next, the chemicals in lightsticks are non-toxic. Once used, cutting them open and dumping them on the ground with no ill effect. What about leaving a battery in a forrest? That IS toxic.
Remove the chemical from the lightstick and you have glass and plastic leftover. BOTH of these are EASILY recycled. It takes MUCH more energy to dismantle and recycle even an LED based light.
So, to review, the disposable lightsticks are directly and easily recyclable with the exception of the non-toxic chemical inside of them. LED lights and batteries MUST be processed to get them down to components for recycling. This requires a larger amount of energy.
In this case, the best answer if you are environmentally conscious is to use lightsticks. Since they are a “consumable” you don’t count them in your weight when Ultralight Backpacking. You get light for free. Feel free to leave rants. I look forward to them.