When you start stringing the holiday lights, there will inevitably be a few that don’t work. Don’t trash them. Instead, help keep thousands of pounds of wire, plastic and light bulbs out of the landfill by recycling them.
Southeast Enterprises, a sheltered workshop for people with developmental disabilities, has been recycling lights since 2011. That first year, the group collected about 500 pounds of lights. In the past four years the program has grown with more than 165 drop-off locations collection more 240,000 pounds of lights.
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 7, 2017. More than 165 collection sites, including the Greenability office, are available and can be found at KC Recycles Lights. 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. Lights can be dropped off all year at Southeast Enterprises, 6701 Booth Ave., Kansas City, MO.