Aspen & Pitkin County: Buy New Holiday Lights, Give Us Your Old Ones

Nov 29, 2013

If you’ve had your holiday lights for a while… especially if that’s more than a couple of years  … Pitkin County and the City of Aspen are hoping you’ll consider buying new, more energy efficient lights to put up over the coming weeks. It’s part of an effort to lower energy use in the Aspen area… and make some cash, too. APR’s Elise Thatcher has more.

Reporter:  Let’s get to the money first. Liz O’Connell is with the City of Aspen.

Liz O’Connell: “In Christmas lights, holiday lights, there’s copper, and there’s PVS plastic and there’s glass. And the copper and glass are highly valuable commodities in the recycling world.”

Reporter: Aspen and Pitkin County are collecting discarded lights at recycling drop offs… The lights will be picked up by a private company, then crushed to separate out the valuable materials.

O’Connell: “There are whole industries in other parts of the world that have built up simply focused on recycling holiday lights. That’s how much money there is to be made in these resources. And there’s no reason that we as a community need to ship that valuable commodity off to some faraway place for them to make money, when we can be a broker of that commodity here.”

Reporter: Holiday lights recycling is also happening in Garfield County. This the first time Aspen and Pitkin County have tried it. They’ll even take ones that work, because officials are hoping to nudge locals into using newer, more energy efficient lights. And if someone’s thinking about getting rid of the really old incandescent ones, O’Connell says those are especially welcome.

O’Connell: “That’s even better, there’s a lot of glass in those big bulbs!”

Reporter: And collecting all these lights is buying time with the local landfill, too.

O’Connell: “The estimated life of the landfill is twenty five years from now. When that landfill closes, who knows how far we’ll have to truck our trash.”

Reporter: Like years past, towns up and down the Roaring Fork Valley are also taking Christmas trees for recycling... but they have to be totally bare of ornaments or lights before mulching. Aspen and Pitkin County officials hope that having recycling for holiday lights will help make that easier -- and boost the number of people turning in their trees, too.