Each year the holiday season leads many of us to pull out our holiday lights, and every year we inevitably find a few of them don’t work.
But before you throw them out or toss them in your regular recycling bin, think again!
Learning how to dispose of Christmas lights properly is a good idea. It can help the planet and possibly pad your wallet!
Why You Shouldn’t Throw Christmas Lights In The Trash
It’s tempting to throw a tangle of broken bulbs in the trash and let that be that, but as an environmentally conscious citizen, you should consider recycling them.
Christmas lights usually contain both copper and glass, two ingredients that electronic manufacturers rely on heavily.
Given the world’s constant need for the latest tech, it’s no wonder that these two components are in high demand. Unfortunately, they’re also in short supply.
On top of that, Christmas lights aren’t biodegradable, meaning they won’t break down in a landfill over time. It takes hundreds of years for Christmas lights to decompose.
During that time, Christmas lights become hazards to animals that can become tangled in the wire strands, leading to injury or death.
Plus, it’s not as though our landfills need more waste. In 2018, Americans generated nearly 5 lbs of trash per person per day!
So, as tempting as it is to throw your Christmas lights away, don’t! Recycling your Christmas lights is a far better idea.
The Problem With Recycling Christmas Lights
That said, you can’t toss Christmas lights into the regular recycling bin. Christmas lights feature several components and wires that most recycling plants can’t manage.
That means recycling your Christmas lights will take a little extra effort. Luckily, there are several companies that will reward you for your hard work.
Many Christmas light recycling facilities will either pay you cash or provide a promotional coupon for new lights, making the extra effort totally worthwhile.
How To Recycle Christmas Lights
So, you shouldn’t dispose of Christmas lights in the trash or regular recycling bin, but that doesn’t mean you’re without options.
If you have Christmas lights to get rid of, consider any of the following:
Your Local Recycling Authority
Calling your local recycling center or city hall is an excellent place to start your Christmas light disposal journey.
A local recycling center may not be able to process Christmas lights, but many accept broken strands at certain times, usually around the holidays.
Some of them will even give you cash in return for recycling.
Your local center will pack and ship your broken lights to a processing site equipped to handle their many component parts.
Alternatively, your local government may offer electronic recycling events. Usually, these events will take Christmas lights, as well as any other bits of e-waste you have lying around.
If you live in a larger metropolitan area, you might even find an electronic recycling center. There, you can drop off old or broken Christmas lights any time of year.
Hardware and Home Improvement Stores
Most of us throw away our old Christmas lights around the holiday season, either when we take them out of storage or after we take them off the tree.
If that’s your situation, you’re in luck. Many hardware and home improvement stores offer Christmas light recycling programs from November thru January.
All of the following stores have offered some sort of Christmas light recycling program in recent years. The details of the programs vary, and some stores skip a season now and then.
So, be sure to call or research your local store online before bringing your Christmas lights in.
- ACE Hardware
- Home Depot
If they’re offering the program that year, these stores will give you a promotional coupon for new lights in exchange for your broken bulbs, so they’re definitely worth looking into!
Online Recycling Services
Some of us would much rather ship our old Christmas lights to a recycling center than make the journey to the hardware store.
That’s where online recycling services come in handy. All of the following companies will take your used Christmas lights year-round, usually in exchange for a promotional coupon.
Holiday LEDs sells incredible light decorations, including traditional Christmas light strands, and you can get a discount on them by sending in your old lights.
Throw your old, broken, or unwanted Christmas lights into the smallest box they’ll fit in. Don’t add any packing material or packaging.
Instead, simply close the box and ship it to Holiday LEDs’ recycling center in Wisconsin. Then, fill out the light recycling form on the company’s website.
They’ll send you a coupon for a discount on your next set of lights while ensuring your old set is recycled correctly.
Environmental LED will provide a 10% off coupon for any product on their site when you send in your old Christmas lights.
If you’re getting rid of old lights but don’t need to replace them with new holiday bulbs, this might be a good option for you.
Environmental LED certainly sells Christmas lights, but they also have LED flashlights and mountable lights available on their site.
Christmas Light Source doesn’t just recycle your old lights for you; they also take the recycling proceeds and donate to Toys for Tots. Plus, you’ll still get a coupon for 10% off!
Glass and copper inside Christmas lights are valuable commodities, and many companies that recycle your lights for you are making a little bit of money off the recycling proceeds.
Christmas Light Source takes that money to purchase educational toys and books, which they donate to Toys for Tots.
Since you still receive a coupon for 10% off your next set of lights, this company is a favorite.
Help the environment, help a child in need, and help yourself at the same time. There might not be a better way to dispose of Christmas lights!
Try Fixing Them
Sometimes Christmas lights that seem broken are entirely fixable. You may just need to replace one bulb rather than the whole strand.
To attempt this, you’ll need to take a close look at your lights.
Watch for any cracked insulation or frayed wires. If you see anything like that, the lights are unfixable and ready to recycle.
If you don’t see anything visibly wrong, the problem is likely one loose or bad bulb. Replacing it could save your entire strand of lights.
Run your hands along the strand, checking for any loose bulbs.
If you find one, press or screw it in place, then try plugging your lights in again. With any luck, you’ll have solved the problem.
If not, it’s probably a bad bulb, and you’ll need an electrician’s multimeter to find it. If that’s beyond your DIY abilities, don’t worry about it.
Recycle the strand using one of the other methods above and buy yourself some lights that work!
What Happens To Recycled Christmas Lights
Recycling plants that can handle Christmas lights start by shredding old strands and chopping them up.
The tiny Christmas light bits move to a vibrating table where the many different components become more discernible.
Water flushes the table, washing plastics to one side while pushing the copper within the lights into a basket at the table’s end. The copper is 95% pure at that point and ready for resmelting.
The plastic isn’t lost, though. It’s recycled too. You might find it in the soles of your slippers or construction material.
The same goes for any glass in older sets of lights. It too is recycled and used in various new forms, like glass vessels or fiberglass insulation for homes.
What Christmas Lights To Buy Now
Once you dispose of your old Christmas lights, you’re left with a choice: what type of Christmas lights should you buy next?
In general, Christmas lights come in two types, incandescent or LED. Both types come in various colors, styles, and shapes.
Incandescent lights are cheaper, and some prefer the bold colors they can cast. However, for most consumers, LED lights are the better bet.
LED lights last longer and are far more energy-efficient. They can operate for upwards of ten years! Plus, they don’t produce as much heat as their incandescent counterparts.
That means they’re less of fire risk and safer to decorate your home with.
The higher up-front cost of LEDs is easy to counteract when you have a coupon or cash from recycling your old Christmas lights. So, it’s hard to find any downsides to purchasing LEDs.
Learning how to dispose of Christmas lights isn’t just the right thing to do. Yes, it helps the planet, but it can also help you.
With promotional coupons or cold hard cash available in return for old lights, there’s no reason to skip the effort recycling takes.
Plus, you’ll feel good knowing you replaced your Christmas lights the responsible way.
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