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. At some point in your journey as a guitar player, you will 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 guitar strings! But what can be done about it? Can guitar strings be recycled?
Yes guitar strings can be recycled, but where they get recycled depends on where you live. Some municipalities will allow you to throw your strings into your household recycling, whereas most will not. In this case you will either need to hold onto them and drop them with a metal recycler, or be a part of a string recycling program like the one offered by D’addario.
Environmental Impact Of Guitar String Waste
We live in an incredible time where 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 of fashion. But for most people, recycling them is not easy!
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.
Guitar Strings And Municipal Recycling
While many people simply throw their strings in with their municipal recycling, you may want to make sure they accept them first.
Just because they might get hauled away with your recycling, does not mean they will actually get recycled!
Most municipal recycling programs do not have the capabilities to deal with them and discard them as trash during sorting.
In this case you may have simply saved them the extra cost and hassle and put them in the trash yourself!
When it comes to municipal recycling programs, it’s best to just assume they do not recycle guitar strings as most do not. It’s best to check with your recycling program and make sure as it is becoming more important to recycle those strings.
Guitar Strings And Scrap Metal Recycling
If your municipal recycling program does not accept guitar strings or light strings, a scrap metal recycling will. The only issue here is that they need to get there and with some kind of weight to make it worth the effort.
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 hold onto them after each change.
Once you have gathered a decent amount of strings you can simply drop them off with 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.
What Are Guitar Strings made Of?
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 thicker 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 recycler what the material is, 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 your strings by mail or drop them off at a participating retailer. So if you have a Guitar Center nearby, you can drop them off there.
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
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.
Next time you go in…. sorry, tomorrow when you go in to kick tires around that new guitar you have been eyeing up, mention it to them.
They would probably be interested to know that this program exists and potentially become 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.
Its a win win for all of us!
Guitar Strings For Jewellery
If you have been looking around for a way to recycle guitar strings, you have more than likely come across jewellery made with them.
There are many people who have alternate uses for guitar strings and by the many. Jewellery is one of the more common uses but there are people who do much more with them.
And these people are always looking for a supply of used guitar strings for their craft.
Finding someone in your region or even online 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.
Can Guitar Strings Be Recycled?
They sure can! But will you?
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.