Changing your guitar strings is a normal part of playing the instrument. For some players, your strings might last for a long time and for others, not so much. Many players try different gauges, and so the old strings become garbage. At some point in your journey as a guitar player, you will need to consider the amount of strings going into the trash. Most players do!
If you have been playing guitar for a long time, you have probably thrown out a lot of strings! But what can be done about it? Can guitar strings be recycled?
Can Guitar Strings Be recycled?
Yes, guitar strings of all types can be recycled, but this depends on where you live. Some municipalities will allow you to throw your strings into your household recycling, whereas others will not. There are also programs set up like the D’addario string recycling initiative called Playback to help reduce waste.
If your municipality does not allow you to put them in the blue bin, you will need to hold onto them and drop them off at a metal scrapyard.
Environmental Impact Of Guitar String Waste
We live in an incredible time when almost everything we want or need is easily obtained. The downside to this is that the amount of waste is astronomical.
It is estimated that 1.5 million pounds of guitar strings hit landfills all over the world each year. Metal that could have been recycled in some form or fashion. But for most people, recycling them is not easy! And let’s face it, guitar players change strings often.
The truth is however that there are ways to deal with used strings and even more popping up. Some of these means are easy for some but not for others, but we need to do our parts.
Let’s look at a few ways we as guitar players can prevent strings from hitting landfills.
Where to Recycle Guitar Strings
While most municipal recycling programs claim to recycle metals, they don’t always do so and just throw anything away that they cannot process. You may want to contact them to make sure they can recycle them.
Most municipal recycling programs do not have the capabilities to deal with them and discard them as trash during sorting.
Other ways to recycle your strings are:
- Scrap metal yards
- Music stores
- Donate to jewelry makers
- D’addario program
There are many things that can be done with them. Some music stores will accept them if they are part of a program. Not every store will be, and so it is best to contact them to find out.
Guitar Strings And Scrapyards
If your municipal program does not accept guitar strings, a scrapyard most likely will. The only issue here is that they need to be dropped off there, and often there are minimum weight limits.
If you are reading this, then you are more than likely environmentally aware of the waste that goes into our landfills.
One great way to do your part with guitar strings is simply holding onto them after each change.
Once you have gathered a decent amount of strings, you can simply drop them off at a scrap metal recycling depot.
They will more than likely not give you much of anything for them, but at least you have done your part.
So create a place you can store them, and take them down when you have a good collection of old strings. Even if it takes 1-2 years to collect them, it will amount to a lot of less waste if many of us do it.
Recyclable Materials In Guitar Strings
When you are considering recycling your strings, you may need to know what they are made of. If you are playing an electric guitar, your strings might be different from a classical acoustic!
Electric Guitar Strings
On an electric guitar, your strings will be made of different metals. More commonly you will find they are simply made from steel with your larger strings being nickel plated.
Some of the more premium strings you can buy will also include stainless steel, but this is found less among players. So if you are ever asked by a recycling program what kind of material they are, your top three are:
- Stainless Steel
Acoustic Guitar Strings
If you are playing a steel string acoustic, your material may be different from that used on an electric. This is because the response is so much different. On an acoustic, you are more likely to find brass and bronze wrapped around steel wires.
These are the most commonly found materials used on acoustic guitar strings. So if you are asked, they are pretty much going to be:
What About Nylon?
Nylon strings are also something that can be recycled. The challenge with nylon guitar strings is the metal that is wrapped around them. With all the nylon being used on the planet, we need to also consider making the right choice with this string type.
D’Addario Playback Program
Since the introduction of this string recycling program in 2016, D’Addario has helped recycle millions of guitar strings!
Not only can you recycle your strings, but you can earn points towards gear, swag and merch!
In order to get your strings to D’addario you have a couple of options. You can either send them by mail or drop them off at a participating retailer.
The only issue with this program is that it is only open to guitar players in the USA. If you are not in the US, you will need to use one of the other means of recycling.
Guitar String Minimums For Recycling
There are a few limitations to sending them by mail however, you must have 2 pounds of strings at minimum.
This is because D’Addario wants to make sure to lessen the impact on the environment. Sending anything less than 2 pounds of strings simply does not lessen the environmental impact.
If you are in a hurry to get rid of your strings, dropping them off at a retailer would be better for you.
Alert Your Local Music Store
While some retailers in the US are part of the D’Addario program, many of them do not even know it exists.
They would probably be interested to know that this program exists and potentially becomes a depot. This would not only be great for the environment but could be good for business as people go in to drop off strings would walk out with gear.
It is a win for all of us!
Donate Guitar Strings For Jewelry
If you have been looking around for a way to recycle guitar strings, you have more than likely come across jewelry made with them.
There are many people who have alternate uses for guitar strings, and by the many. Jewelry is one of the more common uses, but there are people who do much more with them.
And they are always looking for a supply of used guitar strings for their craft.
Finding someone in your region that can use them is going to be easier than you think.
The beautiful thing here is that not only are you keeping them out of the landfill, but you are also helping someone find materials that now do not have to be bought.
Even further, reducing the impact to the environment because of your donation!
So Guitar Strings Can Be Recycled?
They sure can! But will you make the effort?
Because there is nothing like a brand-new set of strings, many players are changing them far too soon. More and more players are picking up the guitar, and the string waste is becoming exponentially large.
No matter what you choose, even if it isn’t quite convenient, we hope you choose to recycle them. It is very easy to just toss them in the trash, but our world will not be able to handle this sooner than we think.
We hope this article has helped you consider recycling and has also offered a means to do so. There is no better time than now, even if it means stashing them away for a while.
Are Ernie Ball strings recyclable?
Yes, Ernie Ball strings like all other brands can be recycled. They can be sent to the D’addario Playback program or your local scrapyard. The packaging is also recyclable and can be put in your blue box.
Can I put guitar strings in the recycling?
It’s best to find out if your city or municipality accepts them first. If they do not, and you put them in your recycling bin, they might just get thrown into the landfill anyway. You can also bring them to a scrapyard when you have a few pounds worth of guitar strings.