It’s almost inevitable that when you pull out your holiday decorations for the season, at least one bulb or strand of lights will be broken, burnt out, or malfunctioning. Sometimes, fixing seemingly busted Christmas lights is as simple as swapping a dead bulb or two (and strands usually come with a few extras) or replacing a blown fuse. But whether your lights are beyond repair or simply no longer needed, you shouldn’t resort to tossing them in the trash.
How to repurpose Christmas lights
Depending on the state of your light strands, there are a few ways to reuse them for holiday decor. If a handful of bulbs are broken or out—too many to replace, but not enough to scrap the strand entirely—stuff them in a glass jar or vase to create a festive light fixture or a nightlight for your kid’s room. This is also a great way to make use of extra fully functioning string lights that would otherwise stay in the box, which you can also add to a wreath or a garland or even hang year-round.
If the strand is completely busted, use it to tie up gifts. If you have a strand with large vintage bulbs, paint or spray paint the individual bulbs and gather ribbon, twine, and glitter to create ornaments, napkin rings, wreath attachments, or a standalone garland.
How to donate Christmas lights
If you don’t have a purpose for gently used light strands that still work, try finding them a new home. You can list them for free on Freecycle, Facebook Marketplace, or Nextdoor. You could also gift them to crafty, DIY-minded friends, family, or neighbours, or look for a community organization, such as an after-school program, church, shelter, or assisted living centre, that might accept donations of holiday decorations.
How to recycle Christmas lights
If your lights can’t be repurposed or donated, there are a handful of ways to dispose of them besides dumping them in your trash bin.
Drop off at your local hardware store
Retailers like The Home Depot, Lowe’s, Ace Hardware, and TruValue accept old Christmas lights and will recycle them for you (and sometimes will offer deals on new strings with trade-in). Note that this service may not be available at every location or outside of the holiday season, so call ahead.
If you live in the mid-Atlantic with a nearby MOM’s Organic Market, you can drop off your lights (in any condition) for recycling during their winter holiday lights drive.
If none of these pans out, local recycling companies that offer metal recycling may be able to take your old holiday lights. Check your municipal services website as well as specialty recyclers (just don’t dump lights in your curbside bin).
Check with your local thrift store
Goodwill and Salvation Army generally accept working string lights for recycling, as will Habitat for Humanity ReStore. As with hardware stores, call ahead or check donation guidelines online before dumping boxes of old lights.
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