Recycling your Christmas lights helps provide jobs

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - For the third year in a row, Southeast Enterprises is collecting old, non-working Christmas lights to ensure people with disabilities have jobs to do.

Southeast Enterprises provides assembly and packaging work for 170 people in Jackson County.  It has been doing this for 38 years in Kansas City.

Three years ago, it started collecting holiday lights for recycling.

The employees remove the bulbs from the lights.  The wire is recycled and Southeast Enterprises gets the money from the copper.

"It's easy and a lot of fun and the pay is pretty good and I like doing it," said John Pentico, who has been working at Southeast Enterprises for 34 years.

Not only does this program keep the lights out of landfills, it also provides work for individuals like Pentico year round.

"When our packaging assembly contracts slow down a little throughout the year, we can pull those lights out and work those lights throughout the entire year for our employees," said Megan Gurera, Director of Business Development. "So we can always have work for them in the building."

In its first year, the holiday lights recycling program collected 584 pounds of lights with bins at 11 locations around the metro area.

It grew exponentially in its second year, collecting 34,000 pounds of lights at 160 locations.

This year, the goal is to collect 34,000 pounds again.  There are bins set up at 180 locations around the metro, including four high schools.

Southeast Enterprises set up a program with Blue Springs, Raytown, Hickman and Grandview High Schools. Fifty-percent of what is collected from the schools will go back to special education programs, preparing the next generation of the work force among young people with disabilities.

To find a collection location close to you, click here.

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