Chris_J/Flickr

It’s time to recycle or trade them in, instead.

Maybe your neighborhood is already dripping with holiday twinkle lights—or maybe you’ve at least started to hear neighbors cursing when they unpack boxes to find puzzling, tangled strands that are impossible to unwind.

Americans go a little crazy when it comes to decking the halls—and porches, and roofs, and basically every other surface—with sparkling bulbs. Some more so than others:

(My Photo Journeys/Flickr)

Columbus, Georgia, homeowner Barbara Taylor told the local NBC affiliate that she spends about $3,000 a year on Christmas decorations for the outside of her house, pictured above. The power company installed additional outlets to light her thousands of strands and characters. Unsurprisingly, she described the electric bill as “astronomical.”

But even people with less eye-popping displays can go through a lot of lights. Each season, 20 million pounds of our busted holiday lights are shipped to China, where they’re dismantled into brass, copper, and plastic parts and then remade into new consumer goods, Gizmodo reported.

There’s an alternative to trashing your smashed or burned-out strands: recycling. Many municipalities don’t permit residents to throw these in the rest of the curbside recyclables, because they can leak chemicals or muck up the waste stream. But some organizations coordinate programs specifically designed to process these products. Maggie Mattacola, executive director of operations at the Recycling Association of Minnesota, told the local Star Tribune that the “Recycle Your Holidays” initiative recycled more than 104,000 pounds of lights last year.

Plus, through November 15, Home Depot stores nationwide are hosting trade-ins where customers can drop off old lights and receive vouchers for discounts new LED strands, which use 90 percent less energy than other varieties, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council. A number of e-commerce sites do this, too.

Here are some tips to keep yours in working order:

Prevent tangles. To fend off the dreaded light knot, wind the strands around a cylindrical coffee tin instead of just shoving them to the back of your closet, suggests Real Simple. Another tactic: wrap them around a flat piece of cardboard and tape them in place.  

Try fixing a “broken” strand yourself. Maybe all is not lost. Popular Mechanics claims it’s not too hard to try a DIY approach if you’ve got some simple tools. Keep some on hand and test the lights before you start raging.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. photo: a pair of homes in Pittsburgh
    Equity

    The House Flippers of Pittsburgh Try a New Tactic

    As the city’s real estate market heats up, neighborhood groups say that cash investors use building code violations to encourage homeowners to sell.  

  2. Life

    The Cities Americans Want to Flee, and Where They Want to Go

    An Apartment List report reveals the cities apartment-hunters are targeting for their next move—and shows that tales of a California exodus may be overstated.

  3. Design

    Long Before Levittown, Brooklyn Boasted Mass-Produced Housing

    The small community of Gerritsen Beach was a pioneering cookie-cutter suburb in the 1920s.

  4. Life

    Can Toyota Turn Its Utopian Ideal Into a 'Real City'?

    The automaker-turned-mobility-company announced last week it wants to build a living, breathing urban laboratory from the ground up in Japan.

  5. A woman, forced into the street by blocked sidewalks, pushes a stroller down a street in Boston.
    Perspective

    Why Cities, Not Individuals, Should Clear Snow From Sidewalks

    Most U.S. cities leave the responsibility of sidewalk snow removal to homeowners, landlords, and businesses. The result: endangered pedestrians.

×