How can I reuse or recycle broken Christmas tree lights?

Christmas Tree LightsWe’ve had an email from Megan McDermott, saying:

I just put my Christmas tree up this week and was disappointed to find that three strands of lights aren’t working. I hate to throw them in out, but what can I do with them?

It’s early in the festive season but I suspect a number of people will be hitting the same snag around about now. I’ve seen Christmas tree lights used in all sorts of non-festive places – but they’ve all been working.

Given the amount of little bulbs and wire involved, it’s probably one of those things that is, unfortunately, cheaper to replace than to fix these days – but has anyone got any trouble-shooting tips to get them working again?

But if that doesn’t fix the problem, what other options are there to reuse them either in all or in parts?

(Photo by singhajay)

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16 Responses to “How can I reuse or recycle broken Christmas tree lights?”


  1. anon says:

    In the Toronto area (don’t know about other places), there have been light exchange programs where you can bring in 2 strings of old holiday lights (including broken ones) and exchange them for a free string of LED ones. They’re over here for this year, but worth keeping in mind.

  2. Megan says:

    Oh, cool! I’ll have to keep that in mind for next year.

    It did occur to me that most of the bulbs in the strands are probably just find and can be pulled out and used as replacements in working strands. After that you’re still left with a load of wiring.

  3. VP says:

    The wire could be cut up and used as plant ties and the plug saved as a spare one.

  4. Karlie says:

    They have a simple tool that allows you to check which bulbs are dead on the string so you only have to replace the burned out bulbs.

    Google them with ‘Christmas Light Tester’

  5. Anonymous says:

    Not so much what you can do with broken lights, but how to prevent them from becoming broken:

    When you’re ready to store them after the seasons, packing each individual string of lights in it its own (reused plastic) bag. This prevents them tangling up with each other and provides a bit of padding for storage. That way next year you’re not tugging on knots, knocking lights loose and breaking connections.

  6. jen says:

    I could see a styrofoam ball with the bulbs stuck into it all over, like a porcupine, a ribbon to hang it, and boom, christmas ornament.

  7. molliewobbles says:

    Well, I like the other comments, but if you get new ones, get LED ones because they use sooooooo much less energy and they last a REALLY long time!

  8. reducinator says:

    Buy LED bulbs they never go bad.

  9. Tabatta says:

    I would rather not to use xmas lights because of the lead, but since you already have those, i would try to fix them using the light tester or else, i would suggest you to make a hanging lamp (like a ball) using vinyl to wrap them and then rolling them. You can tie up the useless cord in the middle and then place the good ones all around. Another suggestion could be to place the good ones in a piece of wood or wire net to simulate a starry sky, then place a dark navy fabric on top, stretch it and make little holes for the lights to show. Place a nativity set below. Hope it helps.

  10. roma says:

    Re Christmas lights – replacement globes can be purchased in small packets… you can take one good light out and individualy replace the globes in the ‘section that is not working’ there is generally you will find there is only one globe that has caused the whole section to fail.
    Otherwise remove all working globes after testing as above and keep these good globes as spares for your next set.

  11. roma says:

    to use the old christmas lights – get two wire hanging baskets – tie them together so they forma ball, then attached all the lights – pushing the unusuable section inside the basket – use this as a hanging decoration under your verandah.

  12. E says:

    In the UK and EU you could WEEE them. Take them to your nearest WEEE point and drop them off.

  13. S says:

    As above: Local Household Waste Recycling centres should recycle parts of damaged xmas lights

  14. 2Shaye says:

    I know this is a very old post, but for those in the US, I just came across this idea. Shipping may be too much for us, but I’m considering doing it as I have MANY old strands that I hate to just dump in a landfill. I’d prefer to find some cool crafts to use them with so that I can avoid shipping and use my own energy.

    http://www.environmentalled.com/Christmas-Light-Recycling-24.html

  15. A says:

    That’s a great one, 2Shaye!
    I also found this one: http://www.environmentalled.com/Christmas-Light-Recycling-24.html



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