Every year, 150 million strings of holiday lights are purchased.
“Every year, nearly all of these lights are thrown away,” said Fae Nageon de Lestang, waste alternative specialist at Alachua County Public Works.
The disposal of holiday lights is an issue that the county has been working to repair for years, she said.
As homeowners start decorating their homes for the holidays, some may decide to upgrade to more energy efficient fixtures. According to a Duke Energy press release, six 100-bulb incandescent strings can add as much as $76 more to a monthly power bill, versus only $11 for six comparable LED bulb strings.
In an effort to prevent lights from ending up in landfills, Alachua County now allows residents to recycle unwanted or broken strings of holiday lights, free of charge, to five Alachua County Rural Collection Centers, the Leveda Brown Environmental Park and Alachua County Public Works.
“The idea for this came about two years ago, and the program started as a pilot,” said Lestang. “It’s been successful, so we’ve continued it since. The initiative of the county has always been to divert waste year-round, and holiday lights wound up being an easy thing to collect.”
Scientists have found the plastic wiring in holiday lights can take thousands of years to decompose, creating adverse environmental conditions when dumped in landfills. Additionally, a string of lights can entangle or choke small animals.
The county typically sees a sizable increase in the disposal of holiday lights soon after Thanksgiving, and right before and after Christmas.
“Public works sends us boxes of lights, and from there we hand them over to CMC Recycling,” said David Wood, acting transfer station manager at Leveda Brown Environmental Park.
“Diverting lights away from landfills is essentially a way to save taxpayer money,” Lestang said. “Also, a lot of the time people give us lights they think are broken, but they’re actually fully functional. Public Works just takes these lights and donates them to local charities and retail stores.”
The waste alternatives department encourages Alachua County residents to take advantage of the program and recycle their lights this holiday season.
“This is an issue with a very feasible solution,” Lestang said. “The program has been successful so far, and we plan to continue it indefinitely.”
According to the release, string lights, broken or unwanted cables, and cords should be brought to the following collections points:
The Rural Collection Centers- Monday, Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday, from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Alachua/High Springs (16929 N.W. US Hwy 441)
Archer (19401 S.W. Archer Road)
Fairbanks (9920 N.E. Waldo Road)
North Central (10714 N. SR 121)
Phifer (11700 S.E. Hawthorne Road)
Leveda Brown Environmental Park- Monday through Friday, from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. (5115 N.E. 63rd Ave.)
Alachua County Public Works- Monday through Thursday, from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (5620 N.W. 120th Lane)
For more information, contact the Alachua County Office of Waste Alternatives at 352-374-5213.