Gainesville residents can now start dropping off old or broken holiday lights for recycling at the Gainesville Public Works Facility.
“As the City of Gainesville is working towards developing a zero-waste community, our goal is to encourage neighbors to reduce waste and seek alternative uses for materials rather than landfilling whenever possible,” said Tom Strickland, recycling coordinator for the Gainesville Public Works Department.
Citizens can drop their lights off at any of the five Alachua County Rural Collection Centers or the Alachua County Household Hazardous Waste Collection Center year-round. But to accommodate for the holidays, the Public Works Department opened an additional drop-off location at the Gainesville Public Works Facility that will remain open until the end of January.
The program, which has been in operation for several years, has now recently seen an increase in demand as more homeowners make the switch to LED lights. LED lights can even save residents money on their energy bills. Further, incandescent bulbs can only remain lit for around 3,000 hours, compared to LED lights that can last up to 10,000 hours Strickland said.
“LED lights are also safer as they produce very little heat, reducing the risk of accidental home fires or getting burnt when touching the lights,” Strickland said.
It isn’t just Gainesville’s energy bills that can benefit from the program either, as properly disposing of holiday lights can help the local environment as well.
“Recycling metals enables us to lessen our impact on the environment by generating fewer greenhouse gases, conserving energy, and preserving our natural resources,” Strickland said.
String lights and bulbs are full of valuable metals that require special equipment for recycling. The Public Works Department takes the string lights to a local metal facility that can strip the plastic off of the copper wires and remove some of the bulb’s metal sockets, Strickland said. These long wires can tangle the conveyor belts at normal recycling facilities, which is why they can’t be thrown into normal recycling bins.
Further, Strickland said that LED lights use 80-90% less energy than incandescent bulbs. That reduction in energy usage can also limit the negative impact on the environment.
“Less energy, less pollution,” Strickland said.
Fluorescent tubes, compact fluorescent bulbs, bubble lights, liquid-filled lights, or neon lights, however, cannot be recycled through this program. Residents looking to dispose of these kinds of materials can only drop them off at Alachua County’s Household Hazardous Waste Collection Center, located at 5125 NE 63rd Ave.
The lighting equipment that is being accepted includes string lights with incandescent or LED bulbs, along with “icicle lights,” and wires with attached bulbs. All packaging must be removed before disposal.
The city and Alachua County are both encouraging residents to be conscientious about their waste this holiday season and is urging citizens to reuse and recycle when possible. Those hoping to take advantage of the additional drop-box outside of the city's Public Works Facility can find it during daylight hours outside of the front doors of the main office.