Recycling Christmas Lights – is it Possible?

Stringing up Christmas lights creates a warm and festive atmosphere in any office, shop, restaurant, home, or garden. But it’s always a bit sad when the holiday season’s over and you’ve got to take them down without getting too tangled up. The best, most sustainable thing to do is keep them for next year.

Fairy and Christmas tree lights can break, stop working, or you just might not need them anymore. When this happens it’s important you don’t throw them away. Instead, there are many more eco-friendly options to recycle Christmas lights that have been in your tree, decorating the office walls or hotel lobby.

Here we run through all your options whether you’ve got old Christmas lights that don’t work, haven’t got enough storage space to keep them until next year, or simply fancy some new lights for your tree.

close up of Christmas tree lights and bauble on a tree.

Can you recycle 
Christmas lights?

Old Christmas lights are a type of Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE waste). This means you can and should recycle Christmas lights and not throw them away with general waste that sends them to landfill. They class as small electrical items and can be recycled alongside similar waste.

You can recycle old Christmas lights in a commercial WEEE bin at your business or visit your local household waste recycling centre to recycle domestic fairy lights. The process to recycle Christmas lights is similar to other electrical items. The lights are broken down into their component parts and recycled with the relevant waste streams – such as the glass bulb, metal wiring, and plastic coating.

How to recycle 
Christmas lights

Recycling Christmas lights is fairly straightforward, but it depends on the type of bulbs they have. If you have old Christmas lights with incandescent bulbs, then you should remove these from the light string first and recycle the light bulbs separately. For fairy lights with LED bulbs, you can recycle the light string as one electrical item.

Arrange delivery and collection of WEEE bins to your premises with Business Waste. We can provide free bins of many sizes for you to fill with electrical waste including old Christmas lights. Our licensed waste carriers will collect and transport the bins to a nearby waste management facility, where the lights will be recycled.

To recycle Christmas lights at home the easiest way is to visit your local household waste recycling centre. There should be a section for electrical items where you can recycle them. You should not throw Christmas lights away in your general waste or household recycling bin.

glittering Christmas tree lights and baubles.

How to dispose of 
old Christmas lights

If your old Christmas lights still work, then there’s no point throwing them away. Instead, extend their life by giving them to a friend or family member who can use them, or donate to a charity shop. Consider local schools, community centres, or anywhere else that could put them to good use and offer them for free.

Should you want to make a bit of money, you can always try and sell your old Christmas lights online. eBay, Gumtree, and Facebook Marketplace are common sites where you can set your own price to sell locally. This should ensure they continue to be used rather than end up in landfill.

What to do with old 
Christmas lights that don’t work

You can recycle old Christmas lights that don’t work either by arranging delivery and collection of WEEE bins to your workplace or at a local household recycling centre. Recycling Christmas tree lights still uses energy, so there are other options to prolong the life of any old festive fairy lights, such as:

  • Make some repairs – if you’ve had the lights for a few years, it could be that the bulbs just need changing. Replace them and if they light up again then you can keep using them. Another problem could be the wiring, which you might be able to pass on to an electrician to fix.
  • Repurpose the lights – even when they don’t light up Christmas lights can make a decorative festive addition to a wreath or garland. When only a few bubs have burnt out you can also put the light string in an empty jar or vase to create a new illuminated Christmas decoration.
  • Paint the bulbs – should your Christmas lights be at the end of their life you could paint over all the bulbs to upcycle them. Use festive colours like red and green along with adding glitter to keep their sparkle. Then add to a wreath or just put them up in your office or home for an energy-free festive decoration.
close up of Christmas light string on the floor.

Where can I recycle 
old Christmas lights?

Where to recycle old Christmas lights depends on whether you’re getting rid of them from your business or home. Recycling Christmas tree lights and other illuminations from your workplace means it classes as commercial waste and must be removed by licensed waste carriers. At Business Waste we can arrange delivery of free bins to store your lights for recycling.

You just pay for collection and our licensed waste carriers will remove the bins at an agreed time and take them to a relevant facility for recycling. For homes, you can check your local council’s recycling collection services or visit your nearest household recycling centre to recycle Christmas lights.

As well as Christmas tree lights recycling, the festive season can create lots more different types of waste. We’ve got extensive guides to inform you of how best to reduce, reuse, and recycle all your Christmas waste.

Learn more in our Christmas waste guides
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