To find out where collection sites are located for unwanted, leftover and broken products, like old Christmas light strings, visit regeneration.ca. (Sheri Regnier photo)

Keep old Christmas lights out of the landfill, B.C. recycles

Don't throw out old Christmas lights and strings; Trail Bottle Depot collects them for recycle

Old strings of Christmas lights – and all those twinkling bulbs – do not belong in the McKelvey Creek landfill.

Help keep this season, and all those to come, merry and “green” by recycling burnt out lights and strings lights no longer being used.

“Recycling your Christmas lights gives their parts a new life, rather than adding to a landfill that will be around for hundreds of years,” Jeannine Bartz from Product Care told the Trail Times.

“Not only does recycling Christmas lights reduce limited landfill space, and preserve the life of the landfill, but it allows the raw materials such as metal, glass, and plastic, to be recovered and reused for another future purpose.”

For information about special waste recycling click here: Regeneration by Product Care

The Trail Bottle Depot, open seven days a week, is the nearest drop-off center for all those Christmas lights collecting dust.

The light strings are picked up from the Rossland Avenue recycle depot and shipped elsewhere by Product Care, a federally-incorporated non-profit association that has been at the forefront of product stewardship in Canada since 1994.

But what happens next?

“After Christmas lights are dropped off at a collection site to be recycled through our light recycling program, they’re transported to authorized recyclers for processing – right here in Canada,” Bartz said.

“Machines are used to break down the products into their component parts (e.g. precious metal, glass, plastic) and harvest the materials that went into making the products in the first place.”

Materials recovered through processing are then put back into the manufacturing supply chain, and used for a large variety of purposes, such as making new products.

Interestingly, even as the cost to power Christmas lights climbs year after year, most British Columbians aren’t willing to sacrifice their cheery seasonal display.

“Usage of energy from Christmas lights has increased by 15 per cent since 2012 across the province,” said Bartz, referring to a recent study conducted by BC Hydro.

“The study shows that 57 per cent of British Columbians put up Christmas lights, over half of which put up three or more light strands.”

As a province, that’s millions of Christmas lights, all of which will eventually break and/or burn out.

“If we envision how much space and weight string lights occupy in individual decoration boxes,” Bartz said. “And now multiply that by the millions of lights British Columbians own across the province, we’re talking about a lot of recyclable material that can be diverted from our landfills.”

From retro-style incandescent strings to LED garlands which twinkle and blink, all kinds of holiday string lights can be recycled. Notably, Product Care recycle programs actually include much more than just string lights.

Almost any type of fixture can be recycled, as long as its primary purpose is to illuminate a space.

For example, everyday household goods like chandeliers, pendant lights, desk lamps, standing lamps, bike lights and even electric candles, can be recycled. That’s in addition to all types of light bulbs including LEDs, incandescents, halogens, CFLs, and fluorescent tubes.

Components such as metal and glass can be recycled from lights and fixtures and repurposed for other uses.

As far as lights that contain mercury, Product Care is able to safely remove and store this material to ensure it does not contaminate the earth.

There are countless reasons it’s important to recycle lights, which is why Product Care has made it free to drop them off at hundreds of locations across B.C.

Through Product Care’s “LightRecycle” programs, over 40 million lights have been collected in Canada over eight years.

That’s 40 million items containing recoverable materials such as glass, metal, or phosphor powder that were kept out of landfills and waterways and re-channelled into other uses.

“So while that one burnt out bulb may seem trivial at first, know that when you recycle it, you contribute to a growing movement that is making a significant positive impact on our environment,” Product Care emphasizes. “When in doubt about whether to recycle your lights or not, just remember: every bulb counts.”

Related story here: RDKB targets organics in waste reduction plan


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