You would be forgiven for assuming tea lights cannot be recycled. While, in part, this is true, some parts can, in fact, be recycled. There are also lots of innovative ways of upcycling the different components of the tea light.
Tea lights are one of those items that 99% of households own. Often though, they sit in a drawer forgotten about, and eventually get thrown in the trash. Or, they burn so far down and are never touched again. The less trash that goes to landfills the better, so let’s take a look at the alternatives. This article covers where to recycle tea lights, including containers, wicks, and wax.
It is important to check with your local authority as rules can differ between areas. Generally speaking, a metal container is accepted as recyclable material. Unless the wax is organic, such as beeswax, it cannot be recycled. Wicks are usually made from braided cotton so can be also recycled.
What are Tea Light Candles Made Of?
Tea light candles are small and usually circular. They typically sit in a metal container. Tea lights derive their name from their original use in teapot warmers. They are popularly used in food warmers, scented oils, and normal candle holders.
The wax part of the tea light candle can be made with a variety of wax types. Some of the most common are named below:
- 100% soy wax.
- Soya blends
The wick is the part that holds the flame and is usually made from braided cotton. This piece of cotton is tethered to a piece of metal to remain in place while burning. The length of the wick determines how long the tea light will burn.
The round containers that the candles sit in are normally made from metal or plastic. This can then be placed in a candle holder or similar. The container holds the wax as it turns to liquid and retains its shape throughout the process.
Are Tea Lights Recyclable?
To answer this question succinctly, we must break the materials down and talk about each of them separately.
Can I Recycle Tea Light Containers?
As we have already discussed, the container is usually metal or plastic. Sometimes they are then placed in another material, such as glass. For this article, we are focusing on the material directly adjacent to the wax.
If your tea lights are in a metal casing then you can recycle them. However, to do this you would need to scrape out any remaining wax. Certain plastics can be recycled, you are best to check with the seller, wherever possible. Easier still, if you kept the packaging then check this.
Can I Recycle Tea Light Wicks?
The wicks are generally made from cotton or string and, as such, can be recycled. To recycle them though, you would need to separate the wick from any remaining wax. This process can be a little time-consuming but not impossible.
Can I Recycle Tea Light Wax?
Any unused wax that you wish to dispose of must go in your non-recyclable garbage cart. Having said this, you can reuse any leftover wax to make new candles and do your own recycling. If your wax is made from plastic, however, you may be able to recycle it. It is always best to check the packaging for full details.
How Do I Dispose Of Tea Lights?
To answer this question, we enlisted the help of some professionals who gave us insight into disposing of tea lights. The rules differ around the world so be sure to check your own locality. For this article, we spoke with Oxford Council and Chicago.
Here’s what they said:
UK: Oxford City Council advise that in their county, they have blue, green, brown, and a food caddy waste system. Organic wax, such as beeswax, can go in the food caddy but synthetic wax should go in the (non-recyclable) green bin. The empty metal container can go in the (recyclable) blue bin.
US: We refer to specifically Chicago here, but our research shows that the rules across US states seem to be similar. The empty, wax-free metal pots can be put into the (recyclable) blue bins. The wax, if compostable, can go into the food waste, otherwise just the general waste cart.
We also extended our research to include the rules in Australia and Canada, here’s what we found out.
In Australia, the empty candle holder (with all wax and wick gone) can be placed in the (recyclable) yellow-lidded bins. The wax cannot be recycled and must go in with the general waste if there are no other uses for it.
In Canada, you can recycle the metal container once the wax has been removed. These should be placed in the blue box for recycling. The wax must be put out with the normal garbage if you are not going to reuse it.
How do you Remove and Reuse Tea Light Wax?
Use the easy-to-follow steps below in order to successfully remove any wax deposits from the tea light container:
- You should stop using tea lights once you are left with just a small amount of wax
- The freezer is your friend at this point. Simply pop your used candle into the freezer overnight as it is
- In the morning, retrieve the candle from the freezer. By tipping the candle upside down, the wax should fall out
- If it doesn’t, carefully use a blunt knife to ease it out
- Clean the container and either reuse or recycle it
- You can then go on to reuse the wax if you wish
What Can you do With Used Tea Lights?
We have covered how to dispose of your used tealights but what else can be done with them? Luckily, there are many options for the thrifty amongst us.
If you wish to reuse the containers then first you need to remove any excess wax by following the steps above. Then you can use the containers for various upcycling projects:
- Make a garland with the pots
- Add some string and make a wind chime
- Use them for printing circles onto canvas
- Create wall art with them
- Make bird feeders
As for the wax, you can reuse this to make more candles by combining wax. Or you can use the wax to make some homemade melts. Add a personal touch to your letters by sealing them with wax. This will look great on wedding or christening invites. If you are feeling creative you can make some pretty wax fire starters.
Companies Will Take Your Candle Wax
There are companies out there who are doing their bit to help the environment. They will happily take your wax to reuse for their projects. Some will offer a collection service (when the wax intake is significant) or you can send it to them in the mail. This is such an environmentally friendly option and avoids unnecessary waste.
Although metal pots can usually be recycled with no issues worldwide, it is a bit trickier for the wax itself. The best thing you can do is to save up all your unused wax and make a new candle. Alternatively, send the wax to one of the schemes that will reuse it for you. You can also upcycle the metal containers instead of putting them out with the recycling. There’s no need to throw any part of the tea light away in the trash.