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Once the holiday season is over, it's time to take down the Christmas tree and start putting away the holiday decorations — and the biggest tasks are storing the Christmas ornaments and packing your Christmas lights to prevent tangling. While organizing your Christmas decorations, you might be wondering whether it's time to downsize your collection. Do you really need 10 sets of Christmas lights? Before tossing them into the trash, consider learning how to recycle Christmas lights the proper way.
Most Christmas lights contain plastic, glass and copper. At a facility, recycled Christmas lights will be crushed up — making it possible for the individual materials to be reused. Keep in mind that there are valid environmental concerns to consider when it comes to disposing of Christmas lights. Beyond likely ending up in a landfill, throwing away light strings that contain Compact Fluorescent Lightbulbs, or CFLs, can release mercury into the environment if the bulbs break.
How to Recycle Christmas Lights
Don't worry: it's surprisingly easy to ensure your old or broken bulbs end up in the right place. Most hardware stores, including The Home Depot and Ace Hardware, even offer drop-off locations during the holiday season. Whether you prefer to donate your lights locally or send them in the mail, we've rounded up the best ways to recycle holiday string lights this year — plus creative ways to use string lights in your next DIY project!
MOM's Organic Market: This grocery store has recycling centers in store specifically for hard-to-recycle products like batteries, cork, Brita filters and — you guessed it — old Christmas lights. Bring your run-down or not-working lights to a MOM's location if you're in New Jersey, New York, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia or Washington, D.C. The store will bring donations to Capitol Asset Recycling, where they're "used to create roofing and construction materials, piping, car batteries, other electronics, lead wheel weights, flatware, jewelry and more."
Thrift Stores: Your local thrift store, including Goodwill, should accept your working Christmas lights. If you have an extra set or you're looking to upgrade, drop your unwanted lights in a donation bin or find a local store.
Hardware Stores: Retailers like The Home Depot, Lowe's, Ace Hardware and True Value will gladly accept your faulty Christmas lights if you're searching for a responsible way to recycle them. Consult with your local hardware store for specifics, including drop-off locations.
Your local municipal waste service: You're not the only one in the neighborhood taking down Christmas lights. The EPA recommends contacting your local recycling service to see if it is accepting working or nonworking Christmas lights. It may set up a specific day to collect donations or direct you to another local organization that is taking Christmas lights.
Christmas Light Source: If you send Christmas Light Source your old, broken lights, the company will give you 10% off your next order of string lights. Learn more about where to mail your lights on its website. All proceeds from the recycling process are donated to Toys for Tots.
Holiday LEDs: Another recycling service you can mail your old lights to is Holiday LEDs, which is offering 15% off your next purchase if you ship broken lights. They suggest boxing up lights (no packing material necessary) in the smallest box you can find and sending them by the least expensive method.
Green Citizen: Those in the San Francisco Bay Area can bring Christmas lights to a Green Citizen drop-off center or arrange a pick up, but everyone else can send working or non-working electronics by mail. The environmental conservation company will grind up your lights, so long as you fill out their mail-in recycling form and pay a fee of $1 per pound of Christmas lights. When all is said and done, they'll email you a Certificate of Destruction.
How to Reuse Christmas Lights
If you prefer not to part with your Christmas lights, there are a ton of creative ways to repurpose them — and, yes we are talking about Christmas crafts. Whether your lights work well, partially or not at all, here are a few simple ways to turn your old Christmas lights into crafts:
If you have too many Christmas lights, turn one set into a lush garland by joining it with a faux foliage garland — it'll feel like entirely new decor.
Fill a mason jar, lantern or glass vase with a set of working string lights to add a subtle glow to your interior. Hint: this is a great solution if a few bulbs have burnt out.
Turn a set of vintage Christmas lights that no longer work into festive decor by upcycling the individual bulbs. Paint or cover the bulbs in glitter, then add them to a DIY wreath, place setting or wrapped present.
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