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Can You Recycle Christmas Lights?

Ever wondered how to get rid of those Christmas lights you can’t fix? Here are the best options to make sure they’re dealt with in an environmentally friendly way.

While holiday decorations are a wonderful addition to every home, it’s typically just before Christmas that many people start getting their decorations organized. 

And this is typically when they find that old Christmas lights are no longer. 

What I want to address here today is why it’s so important to recycle Christmas lights. Not only does this reduce the amount of plastic at landfills, but there are many types of metals that can be reused as well. 

So, to help you do the right thing this Christmas, let me show you why it’s so important and how easy it is to do the right thing.

Can You Recycle Your Christmas Lights?

Yes, you can recycle your old holiday lights, and there are very important reasons for doing this. To understand why this is the case, let me first highlight what kind of materials they contain. 

Christmas lights contain copper wiring, glass, plastic, and polyvinyl chloride (PVC). Even the newer LED-type Christmas light sets are entirely recyclable.

First of all, it’s vital to keep those synthetic plastic and PVC materials out of a landfill and make sure they don’t end up as Ocean plastic. 

And when it comes to copper, that is a highly valuable metal that can be recycled into new copper wiring. Not only is that a cheaper resource for production, but it reduces the demand for copper mining, which further protects the environment. 

Can Your Recycle Christmas Lights

How To Recycle Your Old Christmas Lights?

Let me now show you what you can do with your old holiday lights. 

Bring Them To A Recycling Center

By far, the best way to recycle Christmas lights is to bring or send them to a legitimate and certified recycling center. The reason this is important is the fact that such companies have to follow very strict guidelines in order to get those certifications. 

They have to prove that they handle all the materials in a safe way and that they use authorized services and processes to deal with toxic materials. You’ll have the peace of mind that the company you choose will ethically and safely handle the processing and disposal. 

They will also ensure that your holiday lights don’t end up in a developing country where unscrupulous organizations might simply burn away the plastic to get at the valuable copper in the cheapest possible way.

Donate Them 

This should be at the top of your list if you have working Christmas lights that you no longer need. You might have unwanted lights because you’re upgrading to energy-efficient LED lights to save on electricity costs. 

And if the old holiday lights still work, then the best way to reduce their carbon footprint is to make sure they get used for as long as possible. 

My personal favorite option is to donate them to Goodwill. If you have one of their stores or centers near you, then simply contact them before going there to make sure they will take the Christmas lights. 

Habitat for Humanity is another great option, with plenty of places around the USA to bring them. 

And you can also check local charity stores for different organizations. Most of these will be more than happy to take in working Christmas lights. 

Donate and Recycle Christmas Lights

Bring Them To Hardware Stores

If you’re going to be heading to one of your local hardware stores to get new holiday lights, then you could save yourself a trip and a bit of effort by simply bringing the old ones with you. 

Many stores will have a recycling drop-off point for all types of electronics, and it can be the most convenient way to recycle Christmas lights as you’re heading there anyway. 

Here are some of the main stores that you can check out in your local area:

Some smaller local stores might also have a recycling service, so you could always contact them as well. 

Contact Your Local Solid Waste Center

And finally, many municipal waste centers will also have a recycling drop-off point for e-waste. Some of them process holiday lights and other stuff on-site, while others then partner with specialized service providers. Either way, if you have a waste center near you, then that could be a convenient way to do the right thing. 

Recycling drop off service

Why You Should Recycle Your Christmas Lights

You’d be surprised by how many holiday lights end up in the trash. But considering how many millions of people decorate their trees each year, it becomes clearer why this can end up being a problem.

Reduce Landfill Waste

I can’t remember how many times I’ve started decorating a tree only to find out that I needed a new set of lights.

Now, the LED energy-efficient lights you can find these days end up working for a longer time, but I somehow always end up with one set of holiday lights that aren’t working.

When you consider that millions of LEDs could be broken, it’s clear that bringing them to a recycling company can solve a huge waste problem.

Reduce Demand For Raw Materials

Not only does less recyclable stuff end up in a landfill, but it also saves producing tons of resources like metal, plastic, and sometimes glass. That means less mining for metals and less demand for oil to produce plastic. 

This alone saves a huge amount of unnecessary environmental damage and is one of the main benefits of the cycle economy. 

Reduce Your Energy Use

By getting rid of old Christmas lights and switching to LED or incandescent lights, you’ll use far less electricity to keep those lights on. 

And to be even more sustainable, I would suggest using solar Christmas lights instead of traditional ones. You can check out some of my reviews of solar Christmas lights here.

You’ll be surprised how much lower your electricity bill might be once you switch to energy-efficient new lights. 

Recycle Christmas Lights

Where To Recycle Christmas Lights?

OK, so you know why it’s important to recycle your old holiday lights; now it’s time to show you how GreenCitizen can help you make this process as easy as possible. 

While the company specializes in high-tech electronics recycling, it works in partnership with Zarc Recycling to handle Christmas lights. This company then grinds down the lights and separates the materials into metal and plastic for proper reuse and disposal. 

Electronics Recycling Drop-off - San Francisco Bay Area Only

GreenCitizen is a certified electronics recyler in the San Francisco Bay Area, and the company specializes in dealing with all types of electronic waste. 

If you live in the area, then you can use the drop-off service for your Christmas light strings by following these steps:

  • Start by filling out the details in this form, highlighting the type of electronics you’re going to hand over. It’s also a good time to check if you have other e-waste to drop off.
  • GreenCitizen charges a small fee for certain e-waste, and for Christmas lights, you’ll be charged $1 per pound.
  • Go to the GreenCitizen recycling center during opening hours, and an employee will meet you to accept your items.
  • Once the weight of the items has been confirmed, you can pay the fee by contactless payment.

This process really couldn’t be much easier, and you’ll be dealing with a reputable and certified company. 

Mail-In Electronics Recycling - US-Wide Service

If you have some broken lights and don’t live close enough to the GreenCitizen company headquarters, then you can use this convenient mail-in service. 

Here’s what you need to do:

  • Fill out the mail-in form with all the details required, including the weight of the Christmas light strings.
  • Pay the recycling fee safely online once you receive a quote by email.
  • Choose your favored shipping company and send the lights to GreenCitizen.
  • You’ll receive a notification that your lights have arrived and are being processed.

This is a good option if you don’t live close to any recycling centers and still want to do the right thing to avoid environmental pollution. 

Green Directory - US-Wide Service

And if you don’t want to go through the mailing process, then you can use the Green Directory to find a certified local company that will process your Christmas light strings. 

Simply enter your zip code and what you want to recycle, and you’ll get a long list of close recycling centers. 

green directory

How To Reuse Christmas Lights 

Now, there is an alternative to recycling holiday lights.

Most of the newer Christmas lights you buy don’t become useless just because one bulb is gone. It might mean that not all of them will light up, but they may still be perfectly suitable for some home improvement projects with the kids.

Let me give you a couple of examples.

One way my kids made use of them at home is to wrap them around a wardrobe for a very fun effect. For some kids, this can even be a solution for going to sleep in the dark.

One set of lights, we used clear LEDs, and they were made suitable for outdoor use. We simply wrapped them around our patio area and turned them on for evening family time in the summer.

With a bit of imagination and help from your kids, you’ll find endless ways to make use of old holiday lights as home improvement projects.

Reuse Christmas Lights

FAQ

Does Lowes recycle old Christmas lights?

Yes, Lowes recycles old Christmas lights. Each store has a recycling station, which is usually at the entrance where you can drop off broken lights. And it doesn’t have to be during the holiday season as they will accept them at any time.

Who takes old Christmas lights?

Recycling centers and most DIY stores take old Christmas lights. This is the easiest way if you want to make sure they are correctly dealt with. There are also some mail-in ways, which may be ideal if you don’t have a local drop-off point.

Are old Christmas lights worth anything?

No, old Christmas lights generally aren’t worth anything, especially if they don’t work anymore. Some DIY stores offer store credit to encourage recycling, so you may want to keep an eye out for such offers.

Does Goodwill accept Christmas decorations?

Yes, Goodwill accepts Christmas decorations and lights year-round. Just keep in mind that you should ideally bring them to a local Goodwill store in working order, as they are probably not worth investing time and effort into fixing.

What happens to recycled Christmas lights?

Recycled Christmas lights are broken down into their individual components to become the raw material for new products. Grinding up the strings separates the copper and PVC, and other metals are also removed. These are all valuable commodities for electronics manufacturing.

Conclusion

It might seem like a small problem, but Christmas light recycling can reduce a considerable amount of unnecessary landfill trash.

You can put your Christmas lights to good use, or you can ask us to pick up your old lights from your home or office (if you’re in the San Francisco Bay Area), or you can bring them to our EcoCenter in Burlingame.

If you're outside SF, you can also mail your holiday lights to GreenCitizen.

At GreenCitizen, you will find many options to best dispose of your lights in an environmentally friendly and supportive way.


Chris is one of GreenCitizen’s writers who has been a long-time advocate of individual responsibility when it comes to the environment. He shares GreenCitizen's passion for making the world a better place every day of the year.

4 Comments on “Can You Recycle Christmas Lights?

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