That old tangled and broken pile of Christmas light strings can be recycled now through January 31. Help the environment by replacing old lights with new, energy-efficient lights. Help employ people with disabilities and help reach the goal of collecting and processing 200,000 pounds of lights this season.
Recycle Your Holidays is a one-of-a-kind statewide holiday light recycling program in Minnesota created and managed by the Recycling Association of Minnesota.
Drop off unwanted light strings at one of almost 500 participating locations. Most are in Minnesota, although there are a few drop sites in northern Iowa and western Wisconsin. The program is promoted statewide in partnership with WCCO, Great River Energy, Ace Hardware stores and CERTS (Clean Energy Resource Teams).
The program employs more than 200 individuals with disabilities at vocational centers throughout the state. Every part of the strand is dismantled by vocational center clients and properly recycled locally. Unlike many other holiday lights recycling programs, the Minnesota program recycles every part of the light strand. Brita Sailer and Maggie Mattacola are co-directors of the Recycling Association of Minnesota. They want more people to recycle old light strings, as well as damaged extension cords and phone cords.
The metals and glass in older light strings don’t belong in household garbage. “We want to make sure that we’re not throwing copper, we’re not throwing glass, we’re not throwing recyclable items in landfills,” said Sailer. The recovered materials are destined for use in new plastic products, new electrical cords and new pipes.
Sailer was recently interviewed by Minnesota Public Radio and said, “We’re at a time when we should really be focusing on retaining those resources as our resources become more and more dear.”
Making the switch to LED holiday lights can save energy and money. Depending on how many lights are hung for decorations, a household can save $10 to $250 each holiday season by switching to LED holiday lighting. This is because, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, LED holiday lights save up to 90% of the energy used by traditional incandescent holiday lights. LEDs are also safer, sturdier, longer lasting and easier to install.
For every old holiday lighting string recycled and replaced with more efficient LED holiday lighting, 19 kilowatt-hours of electricity are saved over the course of the holiday season. This is the same amount of energy as a common CFL household light bulb would use if left on for 24 hours a day for two months straight.
Recycle Your Holidays in Minnesota has recycled nearly 650,000 pounds of holiday lighting since the inception of this program. If even half of the light strands were upgraded to more efficient LED holiday lighting, Minnesotans would saving over 5.4 million kilowatt-hours and $430,000 year after year. That’s enough energy to provide electricity for 477 homes for an entire year.
One of the groups working to recycle lights is ProAct. Light strands will be individually disassembled and the cords cut into one-foot sections by people with disabilities at ProAct’s Eagan and Red Wing facilities, said ProAct Production Coordinator Jennifer Cavalier.
ProAct is headquartered in Eagan and has additional operations in Red Wing, Zumbrota and in Hudson, Wis. Its mission is to serve individuals experiencing barriers to employment and self-sufficiency due to intellectual and developmental disabilities, physical disabilities, mental health issues, traumatic brain injuries, and other challenges.
The Recycle Your Holidays Program does have some year-round drop sites. For more information about Recycle Your Holidays, to find drop-off locations or to sign up to participate as a collection site, visit www.recycleyourholidays.com