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Recycling, Donating & Storing Your Christmas Lights

Strings of Christmas Lights, wound up for storage

Recycle, donate, or store your Christmas light strings

Getting with the holiday program entails a lot of joyful shopping, wrapping and lighting. You know, deck the halls! But after the last Christmas cookie is gobbled down and we begin to think about the New Year our households are often left with storage debacles and waste. Where to put all the stuff and how to dispose of old or unneeded items?

One item that always seems to show up on the list of post-holiday hassles is Christmas lights. Depending on what you’re working with – working lights to keep, extra light strings you don’t need anymore, or non-working strands to be disposed of – you have several options: recycling, donating, and carefully storing.

Recycling Christmas Lights that No Longer Work

Workers recycling Christmas lights

Every year, workers shred Christmas light strings to recycle them.

Festive American families love to decorate with tons of holiday light strands. This means multiple seasons of coiling, uncoiling, stringing and sometimes 24/7 displays of lighted bulbs. Even the heaviest duty Christmas lights have a lifespan which leads to the question of where lights go after they’ve expired.

This holiday season we recommend recycling Christmas lights that no longer work. The Christmas light recycling process sounds rough and merciless. Strings are loaded into giant shredders, whose sharp teeth reduce them to tiny bits of plastic, glass, and copper wire. All those little pieces are then cleaned and sorted, so they can be melted down and used to manufacture new strings of lights.

Your usual recycling pick-up probably won’t handle Christmas lights, but there may exist a number of options for free drop-off of old or damaged lights. Some home improvement businesses take old strands and there are also free recycling centers for Christmas lights. For more details, check your city’s government website or search the web for local options.

Donating Christmas Light Strings

The holidays are a special time for us all. For families who are struggling with unemployment, poverty or the loss of a family member though, the arrival of Christmas can equal stress and pressure to make ends meet. Few things lift spirits higher than the simple hanging of bright and twinkling lights on an evergreen tree or in the frame of a window.

If you open up decoration storage this season and notice lights to spare then why not brighten the home of another family? Check with area shelters, non-profit organizations or businesses that organize holiday drives of goods and decorations and give the gift of dazzling light.

Storing Your Christmas Lights for Next Year

Getting the most out of Christmas lights is a cinch with just a little extra effort. As you pack up after each holiday, remove light strands from your tree and other displays with patience – taking care to avoid knots, breaks and pinches. Use cardboard from gift deliveries to wind strands around as you unravel from the tree. This not only keeps strands flat and organized but it is also a smart way to reuse materials. Or purchase Christmas light reel and bag sets for simple winding around a spool.

Put smart storage and handling of Christmas tree light recycling on the holiday to-do list this winter. You and generations of Christmas-lovers to come will be glad you did!

Holiday Party Lighting Ideas

Christmas Lights on the Ceiling for a Holiday Party

Spread soft light around the room by hanging Christmas lights from the ceiling.

Winter holidays are all about light – the warm glow of the Christmas tree, the flickering flames of the Hanukah menorah, and the sparkly New Year’s ball drop at Times Square. So it makes sense to pay special attention to the lighting of your holiday parties. Here are our top lighting tips to make a holiday party merry and bright.

Soft, Warm Light Makes People Feel Welcome

Some occasions call for bright light, but a party isn’t one of them. Your guests will feel relaxed and comfortable if the lights are a bit dimmer than usual. Consider keeping overhead lights turned off, relying instead on lamps, sconces, and other light sources. This creates an intimate atmosphere, encouraging everyone to open up and socialize.

Candles in Jelly Jars for Party Lighting

Dozens of votive candles in jelly jars add warm light to a Christmas party.

 

Get Creative with Candles

Taper and votive candles are an inexpensive source of warm, lovely light. It’s common to add one or two candles to a holiday dinner table, but the effect is much more dramatic when you increase their number. Collect a few dozen jelly jars of different sizes and place votives inside them, arranging them in a staggered line down the center of the table. For an outdoor party, pull a ladder out of the garage, set it up, and use the steps to hold candles and bouquets of flowers. Of course, a Hanukah party will have a brightly lit menorah. Put a pretty mirror against the wall behind it, doubling the light.

Go Wild with Christmas Lights

These strings of tiny bulbs aren’t just for the Christmas tree – they can be repurposed in all kinds of ways to light up a room for a holiday party. Turn party lights into ceiling lights: string them from one wall to another in straight lines, or from all the walls toward the center of the room, creating a sparkling star. Hang them from ceiling to floor to create a wall of light and hang panels of sheer fabric in front of them to soften the glow. (We recommend LED lights if the bulbs will be near fabric, because they stay cool to the touch.)

Lighted branches with evergreen boughs on mantle

Mix lighted branches with evergreen and pine cones for a glowing mantle.

 

Buy Lighted Branches for Bright Bouquets

Battery-powered light-up branches are available online and at craft stores. It’s easy to arrange them in a pretty vase, either alone or with live, dried, or artificial flowers. Our favorite way to use them is on the mantle, amid evergreen boughs and pine cones. It’s a modern twist on a traditional favorite.

Give Your Fixtures a Facelift

Your home is already full of light fixtures – pendants, sconces, lamps, and more. Dress them up for the party! An ordinary lamp becomes festive when you pin ribbons and bows on the shade. Or create a totally new lamp shade covered with white doilies and glitter to mimic the sparkle of snow. Hang ornaments from ceiling fixtures so they catch the light. Wind greenery and berry branches around a pendant light’s cord or around the branches of a chandelier.

Buy New Light Fixtures for Your Home

If you’ve been waiting for an excuse to upgrade your fixtures or add new ones, a holiday party is the perfect occasion. Wall sconces spread light around the room, avoiding the glare of a single overhead light. A cluster of small pendant lights with star designs will draw attention to the buffet table. Adding a dimmer allows you to adjust the amount of light to set the right mood.

For more Christmas party lighting ideas, check out our Pinterest board!

Party Lighting on Pinterest