Lights get a second life after Nights of Lights
When the Nights of Lights, St. Augustine’s annual holiday event, comes to an end each year the last night of January, what happens with all of those twinkling lights?
Simple. What’s reusable gets stored and what’s not gets recycled.
Working together, the Streets and Grounds Division in Public Works Department and a contractor, Angels in the Architecture, spend weeks getting the city ready for Light-Up! Night, the held annually on the Saturday before Thanksgiving, marking the beginning of the 10-week long Nights of Lights.
City crews decorate the entire Plaza de la Constitución, including the Gazebo and the very dramatic lighting of the live oaks as well as wreaths and garland on all the city’s lampposts. Angels in the Architecture installs lighting displays on city owned buildings, all the light-wrapped palm trees, the hedges in medians and in front of City Hall, and the Bridge of Lions.
At the conclusion of the Nights of Lights, displays above 10-feet on the exterior of buildings in historic districts may remain, but those below must be removed. A lot of lights can be reused after being tested and stored away, usually those on palm trees, buildings and some in hedges. But the ones in the Plaza’s live oaks cannot be removed in tact and so are not reusable.
That’s where the Solid Waste and Recycle Division steps in to collect and recycle all those light strands from the Plaza’s trees as well as those removed by Angels in the Architecture that are deemed unsuitable for reuse. In fact, it’s not unusual for as many as 1,200 50-foot strands to be bundled and transported to a recycling facility.
These operations employ a procedure that focuses on processing spent holiday lights through a shredding technique which sorts by type of component, typically plastic/PVC, glass and copper. The materials are further processed and repurposed back into useful products.
The City of St. Augustine and its partner, Angels in the Architecture, take great pride in ensuring these lights, which brought so much beauty to the city during the Nights of Lights, do not go into our landfills.
If you would like information about recycling your own holiday lights, contact the City of St. Augustine Recycling Coordinator, Olivia Smith, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 904.825.1049.