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Recycling programs spread cheer with holiday light recycling

| November 27, 2013

‘Tis the season for eggnog, quality time with family, and getting hopelessly tangled in endless strands of holiday lights. If you’re like many families, you have at least one strand of old lights lurking somewhere in your basement. You know that some of the bulbs are burned out. You know that the wire isn’t exactly new anymore and may in fact be an electrical fire waiting to happen. But for some reason, you haven’t disposed of it yet.

What if you could drop off your old holiday lights and know that they’d not only be recycled into useful materials, but also provide much-needed jobs for members of the community with developmental disabilities?

That’s exactly what’s happening this year in Kansas City, Missouri. Erika Tallan of KCTV news reports that there are 165 holiday light drop-off sites across the Kansas City area, and an organization called Southeast Enterprises is poised to once again give the lights new life.

Last year, Southeast Enterprises workers collected and processed 31,000 pounds of holiday lights. They’re hoping for even more this year. Workers tear apart the strands and separate the components. Bulbs are melted down, and the wires are used for scrap materials.

The wires are particularly valuable. “We get a rebate from the wire because of the copper that runs inside,” Southeast Enterprises’ business development director Megan Gurera told Tallan.

The nonprofit organization benefits the community in three very important ways: first, by keeping old holiday lights out of landfills (and probably preventing more than a few electrical fires in the process).

Second, processing the strands takes a lot of work, which is why they can employ more than 160 people. They specifically hire individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, many of whom may otherwise face challenges obtaining employment.

Finally, as if that weren’t enough, this year Southeast Enterprises is partnering with a number of local schools. “Those schools will get to keep a portion of the copper rebate and use the money to support educational programs,” reports Tallan.

Happily, Kansas City isn’t the only metro area embracing holiday light recycling. Many other communities offer similar programs.

In Minnesota, Recycle Your Holidays™ is a state-wide program with more than 450 drop-off sites for unwanted light strings. Recycle Your Holidays™ “employs more than 200 individuals with disabilities at vocational centers throughout the state of Minnesota.”

A program from Texas-based Christmas Light Source collects old holiday light strands and uses all of the proceeds to purchase educational books and make contributions to Toys for Tots.

Is there a great holiday light recycling program in your community? Find out and spread the word! We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again — awareness is the first step to recycling!

Category: Electronics, Recycling programs

About the Author ()

Ellen Hunter Gans has been writing for RecycleReminders since the blog’s inception. She is passionate about words, new media and, of course, recycling.

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