David Robinson, coowner of Christmas Light Source, drops off a pick-up truck load of Christmas light strings at CMC Recycling in Dallas. Photo by Jack Robinson.
Dec. 22, 2020
A few nights ago, I noticed that part of our outdoor Christmas light display had gone dark. I pulled the bad string of lights, plugged it into another outlet to confirm the problem, then began the fussy process of extracting and replacing the cord’s impossibly tiny fuses. After much fiddling, I plugged them in again. And there was light! Then a disconcerting sizzle. Then a loud pop. And there was darkness.
The string was no-kidding dead. Normally at this point, I would drop the lifeless thing into the trash. But there’s a better, greener option. Christmas Light Source, a Fort Worth-based business specializing in holiday lights, will recycle your old or broken strings of lights for no charge.
“We started our Christmas lights recycling program about four to five years after we started the business - around 10 years ago,” said Shellie Gardner, who owns and operates the business with her husband, David Robinson. “We took time because it was important to find a recycler who would help us recycle the lights in as efficient and as clean a way as possible.”
Gardner says they started the recycling program with just a few hundred pounds of light strings the first year. Today, they process 6,000 to 8,000 pounds annually, and receive lights from across the United States. Contributions range from single light strings to pallet-loads.
“We unbox all the lights sent to us, load them into our truck and transport them to a local recycler,” she said.
DIY holiday peace sign made from discarded hanger wire and garden hose. Photo by Julie Thibodeaux.
That company pays Christmas Light Source for the recyclable material. The money is put to a worthy cause.
“All of the proceeds are then used to purchase educational toys and books that are donated to Toys for Tots. We love that this program keeps lights out of landfills and benefits young people. We usually purchase gifts targeted to the 10- to 14-year-old age range since this group usually has the greatest need for contributions,” Gardner said.
The recycling program is a year-round operation.
In addition to its conservation mission, Christmas Light Source markets a wide range of holiday lighting products, “from the most traditional incandescent style bulbs that many folks remember from their childhoods to the latest in LED Christmas lighting products,” Gardner said. “Our product line is built of over 1,400 items including light strings, bulbs, cords, icicles, nets and rope-light spools. We also carry lights that work great for patios all year - not just for the holidays.”
The business began when Gardner was looking to create an enterprise that would allow her to work but also be available to raise the couple’s two small boys.
“I had been an electrical engineer who had also worked in program management and technical sales. Christmas lights plus a fully online internet store model without a brick-and-mortar storefront made a combination that was a perfect fit,” she said. “Our business has grown with telecommuting technology, allowing CLS to employ women and men across the country and on the other side of the world.”
Customers include businesses, restaurants, cities, government agencies and residential users across the country.
The recycling process involves stripping the light strings and sorting the glass, metal and wiring for reuse. The recycler resells those elements, which then reenter the manufacturing stream. But there are exceptions.
“There are times we receive lights that have never been used. Their packages are new and sealed. We take these lights to a local charity that sells them in a thrift shop that supports a women's shelter,” Gardner said. “We think that's a better and higher use before they are recycled.”
The company’s environmental stewardship goes beyond recycling. CLS packages its bulbs in thin, recyclable cardboard crates that hold up well during shipping, reduce the need for plastic bubble wrap and make sturdy storage containers. The LED systems they sell consume about 90% less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs. CLS sells the old-school bulbs, too, but encourages those customers to use a light timer to reduce energy use.
Christmas Light Recycling in DFW
Christmas Light Source: This locally owned business in Fort Worth, recycles old, broken or defunct lights. All proceeds from sale of recyclables go to Toys for Tots.
Where: To recycle, place them in the smallest box possible and ship to:
Christmas Light Source
4313 Elmwood Drive
Benbrook, TX 76116
Include your name and email address (mandatory if you want a discount code that’s good for 10 percent off a single order of Christmas lights). The company promises to keep your email address private. If you’re not able to ship by mail, call the office.
Recycle Revolution: This locally owned Dallas company also will take holiday lights for recycling for a small fee. All parts of the lights are recycled including plastic.
Cost: $1 per pound if they’re brought to their community drop-off center at 6835 Forest Park Road in Dallas. Cost is .50 per pound if collected in their residential recycling program.
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