Phoenix and some companies offer options for recycling holiday lights

PHOENIX – Environmentally speaking, it’s best to reuse your holiday lights for as long as possible, or to donate them.

But for the first time, Phoenix is accepting strings of lights for recycling. Residents can drop off lights at one of two transfer stations, starting the day after Christmas.

“This is the first year that we’ve done this program, so we’re really excited, and we’re hoping to get a lot of residents bring in lights to us to recycle,” said Lucas Mariacher, zero waste coordinator for the Phoenix Public Works Department.

Residents will need to bring along their city services bill when they drop off the lights.

The department’s monthly household hazardous waste events also provide a year-round option.

Some hardware stores accept lights, but not all do, so consumers should call ahead before dropping off those burned-out lights.

A few light retailers, such as Holiday LEDs, will exchange in-store coupons for shipments of lights. But Shellie Gardner of Texas-based Christmas Light Source, which donates its recycling proceeds to Toys for Tots, said local is greener.

“See if there’s a metal recycler in your area that can take lights for recycling,” Gardner said. “And it could just be a matter of making a few phone calls. And then go make a donation to Toys for Tots in your town.”

Recyclers recover valuable copper and glass from the light strings.

In all cases, experts say to turn in only lights — no packaging, no wrapping and no boughs of holly.

This story is part of Elemental: Covering Sustainability, a multimedia collaboration between Cronkite News, Arizona PBS, KJZZ, KPCC, Rocky Mountain PBS and PBS SoCal.

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