What should I do with my old holiday lights?

It’s getting to be the time of year when you’re locating your holiday lights, and doing your annual “plug in” test to see how many bulbs are burnt out, or if enough of the lights still work that they’ll hang on for one more year. If you’re like most of us, when your holiday lights call it quits, you might be wondering what you should do with them. Can you recycle them or do you have to throw them out, or is there a third option?


Yes, you can recycle them!

But you can’t put them in your recycling bin. St. Paul, for example, will NOT take your old holiday lights from your curbside recycling bin, but see what you can recycle here. There are a couple of local “upcycling” options you can consider.

If your Christmas lights are still working, but you want to switch to more energy-efficient alternatives, you can donate them to your local Goodwill, Salvation Army or local thrift store. Call to confirm they’re participating and haven’t reached their holiday light donation maximum.

You could also call your local hardware stores. In years past, True Value hardware stores, along with Home Depot and Lowe’s, have taken customers’ used Christmas lights for recycling, and have even sometimes offered coupons as a reward recycling. Again, call your local store to confirm this is an option this holiday season.

Another option you have it to ship your old lights to Holiday LEDS Recycling. Find the right size box, or other recyclable shipping container and send them to Holiday LEDS Recycling by regular mail. Not only will you be recycling your old lights, but Holiday LEDS will confirm when they receive your shipment, and you’ll receive a coupon for 15% off the purchase of new lights from HolidayLEDs.com.

You can also mail your lights to Christmas Light Source. This program is active all year long and they take your broken holiday lights. Based in Benbrook Texas, Christmas Light Source works with a local recycling company that breaks down the lights and recycles the copper, glass, and plastic. Christmas Light Source then receives proceeds from the recycled lights, and they purchase educational books and toys they donate to their local chapter of Toys for Tots.


You can re-use old holiday lights, with a few safety tips. . .

If you’d rather use your old lights in a new way, be sure to use outdoor lights outdoors, and indoor lights indoors. Also, if you’re hanging lights outdoors, look for the UL seal that indicates your lights meet national safety standards. Use an outdoor-rated extension cord as well, because indoor cords are not safe to use in either wet or cold weather. Keep connections between two cords in the air, rather than letting them lie on the ground. When they’re outside on the ground, it’s easy for them to be exposed to moisture leading to a potential electrical short. Lastly, plug just one or two strings of lights into an outlet. -It’s even safer if it’s a GFCI outlet, GFCI outlets provide additional protection against electrical fires.


Need a couple of ideas on how to re-use those holiday lights?

  • You can attach holiday-themed plastic light bulb covers to older holiday lights for fun decorations on St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, Halloween, Valentine’s Day or Independence Day.
  • String lights that are rated for outdoor use around a patio or pergola, either for a party or simply for festive, fun lighting, regardless of the season.


These are just a few ways to keep your old, broken and outdated holiday lights out of the landfill. Unfortunately, your old holiday lights have components like lead and mercury that seep into landfill soil and can lead to potential contamination. We know the holidays are busy, but if you take an extra minute or two to choose a recycling option for your holiday lights instead of choosing the landfill, you’ll definitely be conserving landfill space and potentially donating your lights to an organization that will help spread some holiday cheer for kids in their community!