Don’t Throw Your Dead Holiday Lights in the Trash—Do This Instead

Rather than sending your defunct Christmas light strings to the landfill, give them a new life by recycling them properly.

By Tom Scalisi | Published Oct 21, 2021 10:47 AM

recycle Christmas lights

Photo: istockphoto.com

If you’ve been throwing your dead Christmas lights in the trash, we get it. After spending what seems like all 25 days of December checking every bulb or meticulously hanging strings of lights only to have them go dark mid-Yuletide, few things feel as good as slam-dunking a ball of dead holiday lights in the trash bin. But as much relief as you might feel from jamming those wires and bulbs in the circular file, there are far better things to do with your dead holiday lights. If you recycle Christmas lights instead, you can help the environment—and even charity—along the way.

What’s in a set of holiday lights?

Recycle Christmas Lights

Photo: istockphoto.com

There are a lot of materials inside a set of Christmas lights that contribute to making your season bright. Holiday light strings contain plastic, glass, copper, and even lead, all of which can harm the environment. If you dispose of holiday lights in the trash, they will sit in a landfill for years. Consider how many people throw out holiday lights year after year, and the ecological impact becomes painfully apparent.

If you take holiday lights to a facility that’s specially equipped to handle them, the plastic, copper, glass, and lead can be reclaimed and reused. Not only does this mean your old holiday lights aren’t taking up space in a landfill, it also means that their “ingredients” aren’t going to waste. Here’s what to do with holiday lights to reduce your impact on the environment.

1. Take holiday lights to a local waste management facility.

Recycle Christmas Lights

Photo: istockphoto.com

If you don’t feel like fixing your holiday lights, call your local waste management facility and find out what their process is for recycling them. Some facilities can strip the lights down themselves, while others might not accept them at all. It’s also likely that the facility has a contract with a third party that will pick up the holiday lights, reduce them to their recyclable elements, and get them back into the manufacturing chain.

More than likely, the facility will have a particular day once or twice a month where they accept holiday lights and other similar waste. All you have to do is wait for that day, box them up, and take them to the facility.

2. Inquire if your local home improvement center or hardware store accepts them.

recycle Christmas lights

Photo: istockphoto.com

Sometimes the best way to recycle some holiday lights is to take them right back to where you (probably) got them.

Check with your local home improvement stores like Lowe’s, The Home Depot, Ace Hardware, True Value, or Menards to find out if they accept and recycle Christmas lights that are no longer working. These stores often have drop-off areas specifically meant for holiday lights, but it might not be open year-round.

3. Ship holiday lights for recycling—and receive a discount for your efforts.

Recycle Christmas Lights

Photo: istockphoto.com

Buying new holiday lights every year isn’t cheap, and trashing them is basically like throwing good money down the drain. What if you could recycle your holiday lights while also getting a discount on the next set?

That’s just what some agencies do, including Holiday LEDs and Christmas Light Source. If you mail in a set of dead holiday lights, Holiday LEDs will give you 15 percent off your next purchase. The same goes for Christmas Light Source, except they offer a 10 percent discount.

Both programs are open year-round, making this route one of the most convenient ways to recycle your dead holiday lights.

4. Mail in Christmas lights to support charity.

Recycle Christmas Lights

Photo: istockphoto.com

Believe it or not, those old holiday lights still hold some value, and there are agencies out there that recycle them for a good cause. For example, Christmas Light Source accepts lights year round through the mail. Once the company receives your holiday lights, you’ll receive your discount—and, as we said, they’ll go to work recycling the materials in the lights. What’s more, Christmas Light Source spreads lots of goodwill by donating all the recycling proceeds to Toys for Tots.