Wondering how to recycle Christmas lights? If so, you’re ahead of the pack, as many homeowners don’t even realize this is an option! Fortunately, it is; there are many different ways to recycle or repurpose your Christmas lights at the end of the holiday season.
It’s important to note, however, that simply dropping strings of lights into your recycling bin is not recommended, nor is dumping them into the regular garbage can. Not only are Christmas lights made up of many different components, including glass, metal and plastic, that can and should be recycled, but also many bulbs and strands contain elements like mercury and lead that are not safe to introduce to a landfill.
So what is the proper way to recycle or dispose of Christmas lights? If you have too many old, non-working strands of lights, or you’d just like to make the switch over to energy-saving LED lights, you can choose online and in-person donation or recycling options, as well as proper disposal methods if you choose to throw yours away. We’ll go into more detail about that below, as well as sharing holiday safety tips related to installing Christmas lights, so you and your loved ones can stay safe as you create holiday magic and enjoy a warm and twinkly Christmas season.
Where Can I Recycle Christmas Lights?
If you’ve ever asked yourself, “Where can I recycle Christmas lights?”—then you should first and foremost give yourself a pat on the back. Not many homeowners realize it’s possible to recycle their Christmas lights at the close of the holiday season. Similarly, some don’t recognize the importance of preserving the environment by recycling as much as possible rather than contributing to the country’s ever-growing landfills. Christmas lights can definitely be recycled, and there are a variety of online and in-person options to choose from when deciding where and how to recycle your holiday lights.
Depending on your proximity to these options, recycling your lights in person may be the most environmentally-conscious option. If this works best for you, consider:
- Donating used lights in working order to local thrift stores. If your Christmas lights are still working, but you want to switch to more energy-efficient alternatives, you can donate them to your local Goodwill, Salvation Army or other thrift shops.
- Calling your local hardware stores. In years past, True Value hardware stores, along with Home Depot and Lowe’s, have taken customers’ used Christmas lights for recycling, and have even sometimes offered coupons as a reward for doing your part in recycling. Contact your local store to find out whether this is an option this holiday season.
- Contacting your local waste and recycling center. Many solid waste disposal centers, especially those that recycle electronics, will also take Christmas lights if you’re willing to drop them off. Contact your local center for details.
For those of us who live in a more remote location or who have non-working lights, sending lights to a recycling program might be the best bet. Here are a few companies who offer this service:
- Christmas Light Source is a Dallas-based company that offers year-round Christmas lights recycling, and even puts all recycling proceeds toward an annual Toys for Tots donation. Click here to learn more.
- Environmental LEDs is a Michigan-based company that offers a similar Christmas lights recycling service to that of Christmas Lights Source. Simply send in your lights in exchange for a coupon for reduced-price lights purchased through the same company. Click here for more.
- HolidayLEDs is a Wisconsin-based company with another, similar Christmas lights recycling program; you can package up your old Christmas lights and send them in, in exchange for a 15%-off coupon for holiday lights purchased through the same company. Click here for more information.
Reusing Christmas Lights
Christmas lights aren’t only for holiday lighting at Christmastime; they can also be reused and repurposed in inventive ways that will add cheer and ambiance to your daily life throughout the year. Here are a few ideas:
- Hang leftover Christmas lights in a child’s room for fun, year-round lighting.
- Use leftover lights as decoration during special events, such as weddings or birthday parties.
- Attach holiday-appropriate plastic light bulb covers to leftover Christmas lights for unique decorations on Easter, Halloween, Valentine’s Day or Independence Day.
- String leftover Christmas lights that are rated for outdoor use around a patio or pergola, either for a party or simply for warm, colorful lighting, regardless of the season.
How To Dispose Of Christmas Lights
If you choose to dispose of your old Christmas lights rather than recycling them, here are some things to know about how to do so responsibly.
The most important thing to remember is that if you want to include strings of Christmas lights in your regular, weekly garbage pickup, you need to account for the fact that they may contain dangerous substances such as lead or mercury. Rather than simply dropping them into the garbage can, first seal them inside a heavy-duty Ziploc bag so that any unsafe components are less likely to be released into the environment via the landfill.
Beyond that, each state has its own regulations and requirements for disposing of items like Christmas lights. If you’re in Texas, you can contact the Policy and Regulations Division of the Natural Resource Conservation Commission at (512) 239-1000 to learn more about the rules for your area.
Christmas Lights: Safety And Tips
Homeowners who decide to install their own Christmas lights at the start of the holiday season should be very careful, and keep a few safety tips in mind as you plan and install your display. This job does involve some risk, as both tall ladders and electricity are involved, and also since light bulbs can accidentally shatter if strings of lights aren’t handled carefully.
If you’re doing your own Christmas lights this year, keep the following points in mind as you work:
- Be sure to use outdoor lights outdoors, and indoor lights indoors.
- If hanging lights outdoors, make sure your lights are labeled as waterproof and check the packaging for the UL seal that indicates your lights meet national safety standards.
- Use an outdoor-rated extension cord, as indoor cords are not safe to use in either wet or cold weather.
- Use a wooden or fiberglass ladder to reduce the risk of electric shocks.
- Keep junctures between two cords in the air, rather than letting them lie on the ground, where moisture could seep in and cause an electrical short.
- Make sure you don’t overload electrical outlets! Plug just one or two strings of lights into an outlet, and make sure it’s a GFCI outlet, for added protection against electrical fires.
Why It’s Best To Recycle Holiday Lights
When you have strings of Christmas lights piling up that no longer work, that have broken bulbs or that are so tangled up it hardly seems worth the work it would take to untangle them, tossing them in the garbage bin may seem like the easiest route. But there are several reasons why it’s smarter to recycle your old Christmas lights.
As previously stated, many types of Christmas lights contain elements like lead or mercury that are harmful to the environment, even in small doses. When you put Christmas lights in the trash, they wind up in the landfill, where it’s likely one or more bulbs will break (if they haven’t already). Broken bulbs lead to small leaks of toxic substances that can seep into the earth and, from there, into the groundwater, posing a risk to wild animals and insects as well as to humans.
That’s not the only reason to keep Christmas lights out of the trash, however. Another reason is a simple issue of space: Landfills are limited in their capacity for trash, and Christmas lights take up a not-insignificant amount of space. Since Christmas lights can be recycled, it’s a good idea to do so, simply so they won’t take up space in a landfill that could be used for waste that is truly non-recyclable.
Since there are so many options for either recycling or repurposing your old strings of Christmas lights, it doesn’t make sense to send them to the landfill. Taking them to a recycling center or drop-off point, donating them, giving them away or using them for another purpose besides holiday lighting is the way to go.
Let ABC Handle Your Holiday Lighting
Few things are more frustrating than being in the middle of your holiday decorating, only to realize that your lights aren’t working. Adding an extra trip to a busy store with a crowded parking lot is sometimes just the thing to deflate your holiday spirit. At ABC Home & Commercial Services, our professional staff will be happy to install your Christmas lights as well as other outdoor decorations for you. We can make design suggestions that will make the most of your home’s architecture and landscaping, or if you already have outdoor Christmas decorating ideas, we can help you bring your own vision to bright and twinkly life. Let us take this time-consuming, potentially dangerous task off your hands, so you can sit back with your loved ones, a glass of eggnog in hand and enjoy the holiday cheer.