Table of Contents
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, so the old strings become trash. But can guitar strings be recycled instead of just tossing them?
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? This Killer Rig article will help you produce less waste and get those old strings dealt with in an environmentally healthy way!
String Recycling Summary
- D’Addario Playback: D’Addario’s Playback is an industry-wide string recycling program powered by TerraCycle. Through Playback, musicians can send in used guitar and orchestral strings from any brand to be recycled.
- Local recycling company: You can recycle your guitar strings at a local recycling company or take them to a metal recycling company.
- General recycle bin: Some people may wonder if they can recycle their strings in the general recycle bin. While it is possible, it’s not the most efficient way to recycle guitar strings.
- Create a string recycling center: You can also create a string recycling center by joining the D’Addario Playback program and becoming a drop-off point. Once you are confirmed, your location will show up on the drop-off map, and you can order a custom bin to set up in-store. Full boxes of trash can be sent to TerraCycle at no cost to you.
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.
Discarded guitar strings contribute to landfill waste. Each year, an estimated 1.5 million pounds of guitar strings are thrown away. These strings are composed of metals and nylon, materials that do not decompose readily.
Soil and Water Contamination
Metals such as nickel and bronze in the strings can leach into the soil over time. This poses a risk of contaminating groundwater resources and can have a detrimental effect on local ecosystems.
Waste Management Challenges
The addition of non-biodegradable items like guitar strings to landfills exacerbates waste management issues. Landfills are increasingly reaching capacity, and the presence of materials that do not break down naturally complicates the problem.
The production process for guitar strings involves several stages, each contributing to carbon emissions. These stages include the extraction of metals, manufacturing, and global distribution. Discarding the strings wastes not only the material, but also the energy and resources expended in their production.
Impact of Nylon Strings
Nylon strings, often used in classical guitars, are made from petroleum products. When discarded, they contribute to the growing issue of plastic waste, which is a significant environmental concern.
The materials used in guitar strings are highly recyclable. Metals can be melted down for reuse, and nylon can be recycled into industrial applications. The failure to recycle these materials represents a missed opportunity to mitigate their environmental impact.
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.
Others will not. There are also programs set up like the D’addario string recycling initiative. It’s called Playback and will help reduce string waste.
Your municipality might not allow you to put them in the blue bin. If that is the case, you will need to hold onto them and drop them off at a metal scrapyard.
How to Recycle Your Guitar Strings
Recycling your guitar strings is more than just an eco-friendly practice; it’s a step toward a sustainable future. Here’s how you can go about it:
Local Recycling Centers
- Step 1: Collect your used guitar strings in a container.
Gather all your worn-out strings and place them in a designated container. It’s a simple first step but crucial for organized recycling.
- Step 2: Contact your local recycling center.
Before heading out, make sure to call your local recycling center to confirm they accept metals like nickel and bronze, which are commonly found in guitar strings.
- Step 3: Separate the strings by material type, if required.
Some centers require that metals be sorted. Take a few minutes to separate your strings accordingly.
- Step 4: Take the strings to the recycling center.
Finally, drop off your sorted strings at the recycling center for proper disposal.
Specialized Programs: Playback by D’Addario and TerraCycle
- Step 1: Sign up for a Players Circle account.
D’Addario offers a specialized program for string recycling. To participate, you’ll need to join their Players Circle.
- Step 2: Collect your used strings.
Keep a separate container for strings that you intend to send to D’Addario or TerraCycle.
- Step 3: Ship or drop off the strings.
You can either mail your strings directly to D’Addario or take them to a local string recycling center that collaborates with the company.
- Step 4: Earn rewards.
Some programs offer points or other incentives for your recycling efforts, adding a little extra motivation to do good for the planet.
- Step 1: Collect used strings.
As always, the first step is collection. Keep a container handy for this purpose.
- Step 2: Cut the strings into smaller pieces.
Smaller pieces are easier to manage and separate.
- Step 3: Separate the metal from the nylon.
If your strings have different components like metal and nylon, separate them into different containers.
- Step 4: Take the materials to appropriate recycling facilities.
Metals can go to a scrap yard, while nylon and other plastics can go to a specialized recycling facility.
- Warchal Strings (Slovakia) and Blue Music Tools (France)
If you’re outside the U.S., these companies offer in-store recycling or even accept strings by mail.
- Minimum Amount: Some programs have a minimum weight requirement.
You might need to collect a certain amount of strings before you can recycle them.
- Countries: Not all programs are international.
Check the availability of the program in your country before collecting strings.
- Business/Education Facilities: Special options may be available.
If you’re part of an organization, look for programs that offer tailored recycling options.
By adhering to these steps and options, you’re not just recycling strings; you’re playing a part in a larger symphony of sustainable living.
Other Ways To Repurpose Old Guitar Strings
Here are some creative ways to repurpose old guitar strings:
- Jewelry: Old guitar strings can be used to make jewelry, such as bracelets or necklaces. You can also add beads or other decorative elements to make them more unique.
- Hanging pictures: Use the guitar string as wire to hang pictures on the wall. This is a great way to add a musical touch to your home decor.
- Art projects: Old guitar strings can be used in various art projects, such as string art. You can create unique designs by wrapping the strings around nails or other objects.
- Booby-traps: While not recommended, some people have suggested using old guitar strings as trip wires for booby-traps.
- Garden ties: Old guitar strings can be used to tie up plants in your garden. They are strong and durable, making them a great alternative to traditional garden ties.
- Crafts: Old guitar strings can be used in various crafts, such as making dreamcatchers or wind chimes. You can also use them to create unique designs on clothing or accessories.
Recyclable Materials In Guitar Strings
When you are considering recycling your strings, you may need to know what they are made of. Electric guitar strings are different from a classical acoustic!
Electric Guitar Strings
On an electric guitar, your strings will be made of different metals. 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 as they are not easily magnetized. 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.
Because there is nothing like a brand-new set of strings, many players are changing them far too soon. More players are picking up the guitar. But 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 guitar 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.
Should I put guitar strings in the recycling bin?
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.