We all have them – strings of Christmas lights that are so tangled up or no longer work but we keep keeping them because we’re not really sure how to dispose of them properly. Hint: throwing them in the trash is not it!
Why Recycle Christmas Lights?
Many types of Christmas lights – especially compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs) – contain lead or mercury, both of which are harmful to the environment, even in small doses. When you put Christmas lights in the trash, they wind up in the landfill where it’s likely that at least some of them will break, if they haven’t already. The toxic substances from broken bulbs can seep into the earth and, from there, into the groundwater which poses a risk to wild animals and insects as well as to humans. Fortunately, Christmas lights are recyclable!
Recycling centers use commercial shredders to shred the strings and bulbs into smaller pieces. Those pieces are then sorted into raw materials (plastic, glass, copper) and transported to regional centers for further processing. Finally, the separated parts are used to make new products, like slipper soles. When you realize all of the steps that are needed to recycle old Christmas lights and how many people participate in the process, it’s easy to appreciate the people and the places that make the effort to do this important task.
Where to Recycle Christmas Lights
Earth911.com has a very handy online option where you can plug in any kind of recyclable item to find places near you where you can drop them off for recycling. Some places are national chains and others are local recycling facilities. Be aware that some places offer free recycling and others charge a fee, yet it’s always worth the investment in our environment to keep as many items out of the landfills as possible.
As a reminder, be sure to check directly with stores before you make the trip. Not all stores within regional or national chains participate and some stores only recycle certain types of bulbs (i.e., CFLs but not the 4-foot long fluorescent tube bulbs).