- Before heading to the store for new holiday decor, consumers in Minnesota are being encouraged to recycle their old holiday lights. With the help of several retail chains — including Home Depot and Ace Hardware —Minnesota recycled more than 104,000 pounds of holiday lights last year through the Recycling Association of Minnesota. The association has collected nearly 672,934 pounds since they began picking up this post-holiday waste in 2009.
- The Recycling Association contracts with vocational facilities that employ people with disabilities to disassemble the materials, which are accepted at most Minnesota recycling sites.
- Minneapolis-based K&K Metal Recycling Center sources the materials with copper most in demand, though some centers work with plastic coatings too, according to Paul Kroening, recycling program manager at Hennepin County Environmental Services.
With the holiday season comes mounting waste — leftover food, gift boxes and paper, throw-away trees, and bulbs. Some retailers are not only helping people reduce their carbon footprint by diverting their bulbs from the landfill, but are encouraging eco-friendly practices moving forward.
Besides accepting old incandescent strings, Home Depot gives consumers $3 to $5 of coupons toward the purchase of new LED holiday lights, which are about 80% more energy efficient than incandescent lights and last seven times longer.
Other organizations are finding ways to make LED lights even more eco-friendly. University of Utah professors have actually turned food and beverage waste into LEDs — an out-of-the-box concept that could someday provide another way to light DVD players, televisions, and holiday decor.