By David Bubash
This year, don’t toss those broken holiday lights. Recycle them and help keep thousands of pounds of wire, plastic and light bulbs out of the landfill.
Southeast Enterprises, a sheltered workshop for people with developmental disabilities, has been recycling lights since 2011. The program began when Megan Lee-Gurera, business development director, started to decorate her tree and discovered the lights had burned out. Not wanting to just throw them away, she started researching ways to recycle them. That’s what sparked the idea for the Holiday Light Recycling Drive. With little planning time that first year, she collected about 500 pounds of lights. But Lee-Gurera knew that if she could gather that many in so little time, she could go much bigger with better preparation the next year. With the help of many collection partners, Southeast Enterprises has collected 214,000 pounds of lights from over 165 locations in the past three years.
Nothing is wasted when Southeast Enterprises’ employees ready the lights for recycling. First, the lights are removed from the strands, either by clipping off each light or by unscrewing every bulb and sorting them in containers. The coated wire used to connect the lights is separated and put in another container. Finally, the plugs at the end of the strand are cut and put in a third container.
The small plastic lights are sent to Systech Environmental Corp., where they are burned in a kiln and used as an alternative source of energy. The wires and plugs are sold to City Scrap Metal in Lee’s Summit, MO, which pays for copper by the pound. The revenue is used to pay employees and fund future employment opportunities. Southeast Enterprises hires local people with developmental disabilities for this task and many others.
This year, Southeast Enterprises is collecting lights through January 16, 2016. More than 165 collection sites, including the Greenability office, are available and can be found at www.kcrecyclelights.com. The Greenability office is located five minutes from downtown Kansas City at Posty Cards, 1600 Olive St., Kansas City, MO. The building is open Monday-Thursday, 8 a.m. – 4 p.m., and Fridays, 8 a.m. – 1 p.m.
There is no fee to donate lights, and 100 percent of the lights will be recycled.
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