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How to Dispose of Candles

How to Dispose of Candles

Source: Enjoy the Life/Shutterstock.com

All week your home has been an aromatic getaway. The minty, citrus scent of Midsummer Mojito helped you unwind as you deep-breathed the cares of the workday away. The evocative aroma of roses sent you into a state of bliss as you soaked in your bubble bath. The faint fragrance of Macintosh apples made you feel like a better cook than you actually are.

But now your scented candles are spent, nothing more than a collection of frumpy, charred wicks rooted in a shallow topography of useless wax.

Now what? Their scented spell of joy will be broken if you toss them in the trash, knowing as you do that glass jars won’t decompose for at least 4,000 years. You never want to toss wax-filled glass in a recycling bag and call it good. So how do you dispose of or recycle a candle?

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Too Many Candles for Landfills

Americans love candles. We spend over $3 billion a year to bask in scented luxury. The second-largest candle manufacturer in the U.S., Yankee Candle, produces over 200 million candles per year.

Unfortunately, our legion of candles is not recyclable. Wax, whether paraffin, soy or beeswax, can’t be reprocessed. And the most popular candle containers, glass jars, are not recyclable in your local recycling facility. This is because the glass used in jar candles is chemically different from the food and beverage glass containers your typical recycling facility handles.

Putting your candles in the blue bin would be a wish-cycling blunder. But tossing them in the trash contributes to our waste problem. What’s a responsible climate defender to do?

A woman uses a match to light a Cactus flower-scented soy wax candle on Feb. 2, 2022.

Source: Richard H Grant/Shutterstock.com 

Reuse and Repurpose Used Candles

You can repurpose the wax used in candles and candle containers. Removing the wax can be tricky. Below are some tricks to removing wax from glass jars and other containers.

  • Try freezing the candle. Before putting the candle in the freezer overnight, try using a butter knife to make cuts in the wax. After it’s frozen, the carved marks will help you break the wax to remove it.
  • Put the candle in the oven. Place the candle on a baking sheet just in case it cracks. Then put it in the oven at about 160 degrees. It should melt in 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Pour boiling water in the candle. Again, put the candle in a larger container to catch spills in case it cracks. Make sure your candle is room temperature. Slowly pour boiling water in the candle. The wax should dislodge and float to the top.

Once you’ve separated the wax from the candle container, you can melt it to make another candle. You can repurpose the container for a variety of uses. If you’re not going to reuse your candle containers, you may be able to donate them to a thrift store. Just make sure you’ve completely removed the wax.

Woman making aromatic candles at wooden table, closeup

Source: New Africa/Shutterstock.com 

Recycling Alternatives for Candles

Some manufacturers are partnering with TerraCycle to create free programs for recycling their products. Currently, one candle manufacturer offers recycling for their three candle brands. Candles made by Yankee Candle Company, Wood Wick and Chesapeake Bay are recyclable through TerraCycle’s free recycling program.

You can drop your used candles off at your local Yankee Candle store. Call first to verify they accept used candles for recycling. If you don’t have a drop-off location nearby, you can visit Yankee Candle’s website to print a prepaid postage label to ship your used candles to TerraCycle.

Buy your colored trash bags from Plasticplace.com. But always explore the above recycling alternatives before tossing your spent candles. 

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Go the Extra Sustainable Mile with Your Candles

Sometimes our favorite products create sustainability challenges. Sure, you can just toss your candles in your drawstring trash bags and forget about them. But it’s worth going the extra mile for even those hard-to-recycle items.

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