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Holiday Recycling: What, Where, and How

We all know the holiday season produces extra stress, but did you know it also produces extra waste? According to CalRecycle, between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, 1 million additional tons of waste is produced each week.

Just think of all the excess packaging, paper, cards, wrappers and mail you give and receive around the holidays. It adds up!

The good news is that most extra Christmas waste can be reused; repurposing wrapping paper, gift tags, bags, and ribbons is easy and saves you money every year.

But there are other holiday decorations that might not be so easy to recycle. What do you do with old Christmas lights? Is your tree recyclable? How about the batteries for new toys and the old TVs and cell phones that will be replaced with new ones this year?

Find out below where and what you can recycle this holiday season.

Isolated Christmas tree

Christmas Trees

Last year in Los Angeles County, over 20,000 Christmas trees (over 200 tons!) were recycled by the L.A. County Sanitation Districts. L.A. County offers FREE tree pick-up curbside, as well as a number of locations where you can drop-off trees on Sunday, January 3rd. You can check availability and info by clicking here. Tip: make sure all trees are bare of decorations and tree stands. What happens to Christmas trees when they’re collected? They are recycled into mulch and compost, which some cities give back to their residents for free.

If you don’t want to haul your tree to the curb or take it to a collection site, RecycleTrees will come to your house and recycle your Christmas tree for you! A portion of all proceeds go to TreePeople.


Christmas Lights

Although both incandescent and LED lights can be thrown away in the regular trash, there are many Christmas light recycling programs throughout the U.S. Many hardware stores like Home Depot and ACE Hardware have exchange programs where you can recycle old and broken Christmas lights and receive a coupon for new ones. Trade-ins of this kind are especially useful for upgrading from incandescent to LED lights, which can help reduce the amount of energy you expend.

Another light exchange program is offered by the company HolidayLEDs, which will recycle your old lights for free and then send you a 15% coupon to purchase new, lower energy lights. Another option is Christmas Light Source, which will recycle your old lights, send you a 10% coupon for new ones and donate the profit from the lights to Toys For Tots.


You can drop off rechargeable batteries and old cell phones at Call2Recycle centers in your area. Most Call2Recycle drop-off centers are located next to department and hardware stores, making them a convenient destination while you’re doing your holiday shopping. Make you check what kinds of items they will accept.




S.A.F.E. Centers / Household Hazardous Waste Round-Ups

If you live in Los Angeles and have a lot of electronic waste (televisions, tablets, cell phones, computers, printers, etc.), your best resource is one of the County’s S.A.F.E. Collection Centers. Open to City and County residents, S.A.F.E. Centers also accept motor oil, paint, household chemicals, batteries, medication, fluorescent lights, and Sharps. There are seven facilities located across the County, and most are open every weekend. Check flyer for details.

The County also provides mobile collection events for Household Hazardous Waste (including electronics) in a different City every weekend. To check the HHW Round-Up schedule, click here.

Everything Else

If you ever have a question about what or what cannot be recycled, Earth911.com is an invaluable resource. Simply enter the item you wish to recycle, and your zipcode, and you’ll find out where you can recycle that item. It’s that easy!