It never fails! Every single year we can count on two things in my house: That my aunt will send us a fruitcake, and that at least one strand of Christmas tree lights will be burned out and need to be tossed.

Like most people, we used to just throw those old lights in the trash and eventually they would wind up in the landfill. Many people don’t realize these lights will never break down. When they do finally settle into the earth, they can start to give off hazardous chemicals. Even sadder? Animals can get into them, and it can be fatal. Who knew a dinky strand of burnt out Christmas lights could be so damaging?

So what do we do? Trade up. There are many ways to recycle old Christmas lights and keep them out of landfills or out of critters’ hands. Numerous stores accept Christmas lights for recycling. Home Depot, for example, accepted up to five strings of incandescent lights in November in exchange for a $3 off coupon to buy LED lights. Yes, the holidays are coming to an end. But now is the time to set those old lights aside in a bag so they are ready to be traded in next year.

In addition to Home Depot’s program, here are some other options for those old lights:

Head to “Wally World”

Several Walmart stores have accepted lights for recycling over the last several years. Call before going to verify that your Walmart participates. Our local Walmart did, and all I had to do was drop them near the customer service counter. Easy!

Mail and Save

Some companies accept Christmas lights by mail and recycle them throughout the year. Companies such as HolidayLED participate in light recycling and also offer a 25% off coupon for those sending in their old lights. Five Star Holiday Decor also offers a 10% discount off their products when sending in old lights. Learning about these offers helps find a place for those old lights and also leads to discounts on future products. The process is easy: Just send the lights in a small cardboard box and include a card with name and mailing address in order to receive a coupon.

Rally Neighbors and Co-workers

There is always strength in numbers. Why not offer to collect the unusable lights in your neighborhood or workplace? People may be more willing to recycle their old lights if they are given a gentle nudge. Set out a box for donations and take them to any of the suggestions above. This is also a great project for children’s scouting groups or community service projects.

Wonder what happens to those old Christmas lights? After some sorting to remove anything that is not recyclable, the lights are put through a large shredder. Materials such as copper, glass and various plastics can be recycled and are removed and sorted during this process. The companies then sell these materials to manufacturers to be used in new products. It is upcycling and repurposing at its very best!

How to Recycle Old Christmas Lights