Cleveland Heights Green Team and community partners recycle over half a ton of Christmas lights for zoo fundraiser

CLEVELAND HEIGHTS, Ohio — A 1,200-pound assortment of discarded holiday garlands made their way to the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo last week as part of a combined recycling and fundraising effort.

At over half a ton, that’s a huge number of linear feet of wire, light bulbs and extension cords that will be diverted from regional landfills – to benefit lions and cheetahs in Tanzania.

After focusing on yard collections in November — including political campaign signs — the Cleveland Heights Green Team turned its attention to broken, non-working or used string lights and extension cords that would otherwise have been discarded. after Hollidays.

The Green Team enlisted Cleveland Heights-University Heights Libraries, with drop boxes set up at all four branches, as well as the city’s Public Works Department, where the string lights were stored, then weighed and transported at the zoo. February 9.

“I think the reason I’m so excited is that not only are we getting rid of these lights from the waste stream, but it’s also going to a good cause,” said Catalina Wagers, co-founder of Green Team.

This would be the “Lights for Lions” conservation initiative sponsored by the zoo in recent years, in which the proceeds of recycling are allocated to the preservation of big cats through the Ruaha Carnivore Project and Lion Landscapes programs in Africa. from the east.

Now in its third year, those string light collections have so far grown exponentially, Wagers noted after speaking with Cleveland Zoo officials.

“Speaking with Zoo Facilities and Sustainability Manager (Nancy Hughes), she said the response from the NEO community has been amazing.” Bets added.

When the zoo launched the campaign in 2020, it collected 1.7 tonnes, which rose to 4 tonnes last year. This year, the estimate is closer to 8 tons in total.

“They expressed their gratitude to the people of Heights for diverting 1,200 pounds of lights from the landfill and helping their lion and cheetah conservation program,” Wagers said.

Drop boxes were placed at all four branches of the Heights Library, as well as the City of Cleveland Heights Public Works Garage, leading to the collection and recycling of more than half a ton of tinsel and discarded holiday cords handed over to Cleveland. Zoo Metroparks..Courtesy of CH Green Team

String lights will be processed by DeMilta Iron and Metal Recycling in Willoughby.

The Cleveland Heights Green Team — formed last year after co-founders Natalie Elwell, Alex Sitarik and Wagers met at a recycling ambassador seminar offered by the Cuyahoga County Solid Waste District — will now prepare for “Earth Month in the Heights”. in April.

“We want to involve the whole community in neighborhood cleanups, nature walks, a library talk series and an art contest,” Wagers said, with activities still scheduled.

To learn more about the Cleveland Heights Green Team, please visit

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