Have you just dragged out the Christmas lights again only to find that you have strands that are only working intermittently or not working at all? (sigh)  Are your lights old and outdated?  Or have you been bitten by the little green bug and decided to purchase energy efficient LED lights this year?  Whatever the reason, you may find yourself in the market for new lights this season.  So, once you’ve greened up your holiday display with more energy efficient lighting, what should you do with the old lights?  Whatever you do, don’t throw them away.  Recycle them.  Unfortunately, having googled this extensively, we haven’t found a lot of options.  But there are two holiday light recycling programs that we’ve identified for repurposing your old lights.   They both give you discount coupons towards the purchase of even more energy efficient LED light sets.

Home Depot
Home Depot runs an “Eco Options Christmas Light Trade In” program through all Home Depot stores every year but it is only available during the Christmas holiday season.   It starts in November and concludes in early December.  Bring your old incandescent Christmas light strings to the Home Depot for recycling and you’ll receive $3 -$5 discount coupon toward the purchase of ENERGY STAR qualified LED Christmas lights for each strand.  (some restrictions apply)

HolidayLeds.com
The other program is run by HolidayLEDs.com and you can participate in it anytime throughout the year.   It was responsible for the recycling of 10,000 pounds of holiday lights during the 2009/2010 holiday season.  It’s easy to participate and all you have to do is send them your old Christmas lights for recycling and they’ll send you a discount coupon.

How does the program work? 
Simply pack up your old lights and send them to them via the least expensive method possible.  They ask that you:

  • Don’t include any packing material or anything other than the lights themselves or send the lights in outer packaging such as retail boxes or include any apparatus used to wind up or store the lights.
  • Use cardboard boxes or other packaging that can easily be recycled.
  • Compact your light sets into the smallest space possible in the smallest box possible without any extra packing or plastic bags.

They are located in Wisconsin so there is no way to do this locally.  They recommend that you coordinate with your friends, neighbors, co-works, social groups, church groups, or other organizations when possible to collect lights and send in one bulk shipment.  This will reduce shipping costs for everyone as well as reducing environmental impact of shipping.

Send to:
Holiday LEDS Recycling
13400 Watertown Plank Rd. Suite 34
Elm Grove, WI 53122

What Happens to the Lights?
Once they are received they are removed them from the package and the box is recycled. The lights are processed and any material that cannot be recycled such as loose bulbs is discarded. Once substantial number of sets has been collected they are taken to a third party recycling facility which puts them through a commercial shredder. The resultant little pieces are then further processed and sorted into the various components that make up the lights (PVC, glass, copper.) The materials are separated and transported to a region center for further processing. In some cases, the PVC cannot be recycled.