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Easy to switch Christmas lights to LED

A popular move these days is to change light bulbs to LED -- or light-emitting diode -- bulbs to save energy and money.

Now, Becker County is helping with changing Christmas lights over to LED as well.

"Recycle your Holidays" is a way to get people to not only switch to LED lights, but also to recycle the old lights into tiles, asphalt and insulation.

"It's brand new," Becker County Environmental Services' Sandy Gunderson said. "It's kind of a fun program."

According to Consumer Reports, a typical homeowner spends about $11 in electricity with a 50-foot strand of lights for 300 hours. Using LED lights for the same time period costs less than 15 cents.

According to the city of Detroit Lakes Public Utilities, savings can be even better. LED lights use 95 percent less energy, and customers can save up to $21 a month on energy bills based on 30 days of usage, six hours per day at 10 cents a kilowatt with the 500 LED Forever Bright Lights.

There are many programs that offer a rebates, including the city of Detroit Lakes.

For the city's rebate, simply purchase LED decorative lights in 2009, complete a coupon listed in this newspaper or available at city hall and submit the coupon, sales receipt and LED packaging showing the number of lights per string. The utilities department will give $3 per string of 69 or fewer LED lamps per string, or $4.50 per string of 70 or more LED lamps per string. To qualify, you must buy your power from Detroit Lakes Public Utilities.

Places to drop your old strings of lights include the Becker Courthouse third floor near the Zoning office, the Becker County Transfer Station, the Washington Square Mall, the Boys and Girls Club Thrift Store and L&M Supply Store.

Not only can old Christmas lights be dropped off, but old electrical, phone and appliance cords are accepted as well. Battery packs and cord adapters are not accepted though.

"There's quite a bit of copper involved. People are really interested in this," Gunderson said, not only in the program, but also because it involves community workers, like the Becker County Workshop, which will be deconstructing the strings of lights.

If other businesses are interested in placing a Recycle your Holidays bin in their place of business for people of Becker County to drop off lights, give Becker County Environmental Services a call at 846-7310 and a collection bin will be dropped off for the next month.

People can bring their lights and cords to the drop-off points through January.

Gunderson said this program is just the start of what's to come. The county is hoping to expand its recycling programs to possibly include shrink wrap, agricultural items and more plastic.

The Recycling Association of Minnesota is sponsoring the Recycle your Holidays program, and other partners include Minnesota Waste Wise, Clean Energy Resource Teams, Kirschbaum-Krupp Metal Recycling, LLC, and Green Lights Recycling.

From the cords, the copper inside is valuable for recycling. The bulbs are taken to Green Lights Recycling in the Twin Cities, where they are crushed and made into various products such as tiles, asphalt and fiberglass insulation.

The goal statewide is to recycle 50,000 pounds of lights in Minnesota, which would save about 530,000 kilowatt hours of electricity, and prevent the creation of about 960,000 pounds of carbon dioxide.