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.
Holiday decorations bring a special warmth to our homes, and it's usually right before Christmas that we rummage through our attics and closets for those festive lights. But here's a startling fact: did you know that during this pre-Christmas rush, many of us discover our old lights have given up the ghost?
Let me share a personal experience: last year, I found my favorite string of lights had fizzled out. It got me thinking – what happens to all these broken lights? That's when I learned about the incredible importance of recycling Christmas lights.
By recycling, we're not just keeping heaps of plastic out of our landfills (which, by the way, can take up to 450 years to decompose), but we're also salvaging valuable metals. In fact, a study found that recycled copper from just one string of lights could power a 60-watt bulb for over 4 hours!
So, this Christmas, join me in making a small yet significant change. I'm here to guide you through the why and the how of recycling your Christmas lights.
It's easier than you think; together, we can make a huge difference!
Yes, you can absolutely recycle Christmas lights. They contain valuable materials like copper, glass, and plastics, which can be repurposed through recycling programs. Drop off your old lights at designated recycling centers or participate in mail-in recycling programs to contribute to environmental sustainability.
Christmas lights, whether traditional or LED, are a treasure trove of recyclable materials. They contain copper wiring, glass, and plastics, including polyvinyl chloride (PVC).
Now, why does this matter?
Imagine this: each year, tons of plastic end up in landfills and oceans, causing massive environmental damage. In fact, plastics can take hundreds of years to break down! By recycling your Christmas lights, you're helping to keep these synthetic materials out of our precious oceans and landfills. It's a small step with a big impact.
But there's more!
The copper in these lights is like gold in the recycling world. Copper is a highly valuable metal and can be turned into brand-new copper wiring. This is not just cost-effective but also a huge environmental win.
Well, recycling copper means less demand for copper mining, a process that can be quite harmful to our environment. So, by recycling your old lights, you're actually contributing to a more sustainable and eco-friendly world.
Let me now show you what you can do with your old holiday lights.
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.
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.
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.
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 your Christmas lights is more important than you might think. Every year, countless strands of lights are thrown away, and when you consider the millions of us decking out our Christmas trees, the scale of this issue becomes clear.
I've lost count of how many times I've been mid-tree decorating when, oops, I realized I needed new lights. While modern LED lights last longer, there's always that one strand that just won't light up. Imagine millions of these lights broken and tossed away. By recycling them, we can significantly reduce this waste.
Recycling isn't just about reducing landfill clutter; it's about conserving raw materials too. Less recycling means less need for new materials, reducing mining for metals and the demand for oil to make plastic. This step alone can prevent a lot of environmental harm, and it's a key part of what's called the 'circular economy.'
Switching out old lights for LED or incandescent ones cuts down your energy use. I've even tried solar Christmas lights – and let me tell you, they're a game-changer. Not only are they eco-friendly, but your electricity bill will thank you too. Check out my reviews on some great solar light options.
So, recycling your old Christmas lights and upgrading to more efficient ones is a win-win. You reduce waste, save resources, and even cut down on your energy bills.
It's a small step with big benefits for our planet!
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.
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:
This process really couldn’t be much easier, and you’ll be dealing with a reputable and certified company.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Wrapping it up, don't underestimate the impact of recycling your Christmas lights. It's a small step that cuts down a lot of landfill waste.
You've got choices for your old lights! If you're around the San Francisco Bay Area, we can come to you and pick them up from your home or office. Alternatively, you can drop them off at our EcoCenter in Burlingame. It's a quick and easy way to do your part.
Not in the San Francisco Bay area? No problem. You can mail your holiday lights to us at GreenCitizen. We've got a variety of options to make sure your lights are disposed of in a way that's both eco-friendly and easy.
So, whether it's a pickup, drop-off, or mail-in, recycling your Christmas lights with GreenCitizen is a hassle-free way to help the planet.
Let's light up our holidays responsibly!