Holiday light recycling drive aims to keep lights out of landfills

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COLUMBIA - The holiday season is in full swing and lights can be seen on houses all across the Mid-Missouri area, but a Randolph County business hopes to end up with the leftover lights once the season is over. 

Randolph County Sheltered Industries (RCSI) is one of five workshops participating in a holiday light recycling drive, with the goal of preventing the lights from ending up in landfills. 

"It's getting a little bit bigger as word of mouth gets out," said Kit Brewer, Director of RCSI. "The first few weeks there might have been a strand or two of lights and now that people have revisited those stores they realize there is a place to drop off their lights."

Brewer said RCSI's main function is as an extended employment center for workers with special needs, so breaking down the decorations into lights and wires for recycling and reuse is a project they can work on.

Areas like Kansas City, where they got the idea from, have seen huge success with the drive. 

"They are collecting enough lights throughout the year to go back to this project year round," Brewer said. 

Ryan Schultz is a Columbia homeowner, responsible for the "Candy Cane Crib" light decorations. 

"I have about 40,000 lights," Schultz said. "This year I went LED on half my lights." 

Schultz said he had never heard of light recycling but would use it if it came to the Columbia area. 

For now workers in Randolph County will keep checking bins at 12 area businesses for lights each week. 

"I suspect they will get large just after Christmas after everyone has gotten out their lights that aren't quite functioning anymore," Brewer said.