Bob Vila Radio: Recycling Holiday Lights

With the holidays coming to a close, now is the perfect time to check (and sometimes, chuck) older strands of holiday lights before packing them away for another year.

By Roseann Foley Henry | Updated Dec 27, 2013 9:42 AM

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The holiday season is rolling to an end, and you’ll soon be taking down your indoor and outdoor lights. Why not take a few minutes now to deal with burned-out strands? If you can fix them, you’ll be able to hit the ground running next season, and if you can’t, you can at least cut down on clutter.


Listen to BOB VILA ON RECYCLING TREE LIGHTS or read the text below:

Recycling Christmas Tree Lights


First, try to save the strand. Check that each bulb is tight in its socket, then test the strand. If that doesn’t work, unplug it, replace the fuse and then test it again. If the strand’s still dark, it may be a goner—but don’t be too sad. The typical string of incandescent lights lasts only about three years.

If the lights are dead, don’t just toss them! They’re recyclable. The work is typically done overseas, where the lights are shredded and reusable materials—mostly copper and plastic insulation—are extracted. Find out whether your municipal recycling program collects burned-out strings.

Also, check with local charities, which sometimes collect strings that they then sell to recyclers. Home improvement stores and big-box retailers often accept old lights; in exchange, they may offer coupons good for discounts on new LED holiday lights.

With a little research, you can keep those useless lights out of the landfill—and out of your attic.

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 75 stations around the country (and growing). You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.