Mother Nature has granted Minnesotans another weekend to put up holiday lights without having to bundle up. But even dry, warm weather can't ease the frustration of light strings that are impossibly tangled or burned out.
At that point, many people toss the old lights in the trash and head out for more.
Now, strings of Christmas lights, new or old, can be recycled. Most recycling facilities around the state accept them, although only a few curbside recyclers such as Randy's Sanitation pick them up at the curb.
"Last year we recycled more than 104,000 pounds of holiday lights," said Maggie Mattacola, executive director of operations at the Recycling Association of Minnesota. "We've collected nearly 672,934 pounds since we started collecting them in 2009."
The Recycling Association contracts the recycling work to vocational facilities that employ about 400 individuals with disabilities to dismantle the materials, Mattacola said.
K&K Metal Recycling Center in Minneapolis sources the recycled materials. The copper inside the string is the most desirable element, but some recover the plastic coatings too, said Paul Kroening, recycling program manager at Hennepin County Environmental Services. "Everything is ground up, but the plastic bulbs are not usually recycled," he said.
For eight years, Home Depot has offered a fall recycling program. Now through Nov. 15, consumers can take their old incandescent strings to any location and receive $3 to $5 off coupons toward the purchase of new LED holiday lights.
LED lights are about 80 percent more energy efficient than incandescent lights and last seven times longer. From Nov. 15 through January, old light strands can also be taken to any Ace Hardware store in the state. Frattallone's Ace Hardware outlets in the Twin Cities will accept them now.
LED holiday lights outsell traditional lights by more than two-to-one, said K.C. Cours, vice president of Colorado-based online retailer Noveltylights.com. "Our commercial orders are almost 100 percent LED and residential is about 50 percent LED and 50 percent incandescent," he said.
Laurie Reinders, product manager for seasonal lighting at Reinders, an importer and distributor of holiday lighting in Milwaukee, advised consumers who are buying LED light sets for the outdoors to choose one-piece bulb construction in which the bulbs are not removable. "There's a higher failure rate with removable bulbs where water can enter the socket," she said. "But the overall failure rate is very low."
For more information, including drop-off locations, go to www.recycleminnesota.org or call 651-641-4589.