Christmas lights are big business around the holiday season. The number of holiday lights sold each year is estimated at around 150 million. In 2015, Americans spent more than $6 billion on Christmas decorations, with the average person spending around $47 on decorations and an additional $18 on seasonal plants.
What a lot of people don’t think about, though, is what happens to all those lights once they’ve worn out their shine. With so many lights being purchased every year, that means a lot of old lights going into landfills. One Kansas City company is doing its part to help make sure that all those old lights don’t just go to waste.
Southeast Enterprises is a local packaging and assembly business with ISO certification that provides safe and challenging employment for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. They currently employ around 177 individuals in their Kansas City facility, which includes a 27,000 square foot production area and 6,300 square feet of warehouse space. Southeast handles a variety of multi-piece assembly and volume packaging jobs for businesses all over the area, but starting last year they’ve also begun performing another function around the holidays.
Their KC Holiday Lights Recycling program offers an opportunity for Kansas City area residents to recycle their old and unwanted holiday lights. Southeast has partnered with over 180 schools, libraries, businesses, and other locations to provide a range of collection stations where lights can be dropped off. November 13, 2016, through January 7, 2017, collection containers will be placed at participating locations throughout the Greater Kansas City Area for drop-off. Click Map below for list of drop off locations
Once the lights are collected, the employees at Southeast Enterprises sort the lights, clip apart the light receptacles and plugs, and recycle each component. Like many forms of electrical wiring, the holiday lights contain copper, which is sent to City Scrap Metal in Lee’s Summit, Missouri. The rebate that Southeast receives for this copper wire covers most of the workers’ wages for the KC Holiday Lights Recycling program. The other parts of the light strands are sent to other area locations for proper recycling.
The Holiday Light Recycling Drive is entering its sixth year. In 2011, Southeast launched its first drive with the intent of providing work opportunities for its employees with developmental disabilities and diverting solid waste from local landfills. That first year, Southeast collected approximately 500 pounds of lights from 11 locations.
From 2012 through 2014, Southeast aggressively pursued partnerships with a variety of schools, businesses, and organizations throughout the Greater Kansas City Area. The response from the community has been overwhelming and Southeast has ultimately collected over 110,000 lbs. pounds of lights from over 170 different locations, the past few years.
Last year, the combined efforts of Southeast, sponsors/partners and citizens throughout the Greater Kansas City Area helped to save over 45,000 pounds of holiday lights from the landfill and keep Southeast’s employees working throughout the calendar year.
Some interesting facts about Southeast Enterprises:
> They have been in business for 38 years
> They have never had a layoff in history!
> They are ISO 9001:2008 certified
> They have a room approved by the Missouri Dept. of Health & Senior Services
for packaging spices and dry soup mixes
> They produce 50,000 veterinary medicine kits a month for Zoetis
> They process, clean, and reassemble returned Time-Warner cable boxes
> Assembled 8.5 million swabs for throat cultures since 1991
> Recycled over 110,000 lbs. of holiday lights with no components ending up in the landfill
> Process over a quarter million dye-cut items for Mid-Continent Public Library each year
How you can help:
From November 13th, 2016 through January 7th, 2017 a collection container can be delivered to retail stores, businesses, and other collection sites.
– Southeast will pick up full containers and exchange them for empty ones weekly.
– There is no fee or expense to participate in the program.
– 100% of holiday lights we collect will be recycled.
For more information about how to get involved please CLICK HERE to contact Southeast Enterprises