As Marilyn Lauderdale unpacked boxes of furniture parts and assembled the parts into finished furniture at Renton’s IKEA she watched how the cardboard boxes and Styrofoam pieces were processed. The cardboard was flattened and baled then picked up by a recycling company. She understood how the cardboard could then be recycled into other paper products but she began asking how the Styrofoam was recycled.
Marilyn’s co-worker encouraged her to contact the recycling company so she phoned the company and asked many questions. However, she kept getting answers that simply didn’t add up. After more phone calls to various companies, it was stated that Styrofoam could be recycled but no one in our State was recycling it so it was actually going to landfills.
Marilyn went to her managers and asked whether IKEA could find a better solution. The managers then encouraged Marilyn to research the options. Marilyn continued assembling furniture at her day job and conducted the research regarding recycling Styrofoam on her own time.
Marilyn discovered a few companies that sold the recycling equipment for Styrofoam and these companies also offered a buy-back program for the processed Styrofoam. She found that the foam could be recycled provided it is clean and dry. So she identified the company that manufactures the best Styrofoam recycling machine and then uses the processed foam to create photo frames, crown molding, ballpoint pen cases, light switch covers and other hard plastic-like items. Finally, she’d found a solution that truly resulted in turning Styrofoam into useful recycled products.
Marilyn recognized the volume of Styrofoam that passed through IKEA daily; Marilyn sought to assemble a plan for purchasing the Styrofoam recycling machine and starting an on-site Styrofoam recycling program for the IKEA Renton complex. IKEA’s leadership met with Marilyn and reviewed the plan and while they comprehended its merit, they realized that they weren’t well positioned to enter the recycling business so they declined her proposal. Marilyn realized this was a good opportunity to create jobs and this would also generate an income as a business. She then asked IKEA if they would allow her to use a small area in an overflow parking garage for developing this program, IKEA recognized her 17 years of employment and dedication and was very supportive in this program however she would need to develop this program as a separate entity. These decisions birthed a new business, StyroRecycle LLC.
Marilyn developed the business on her own time as a separate business entity and IKEA provided space for the baby business in an unused parking garage on their complex. The business’ first client was IKEA, but soon other area businesses that had high volumes of Styrofoam learned about the program and also signed on to the service and word got out to individuals, families and businesses that they could bring Styrofoam to her company for recycling.
It took three years for the business to outgrow its space in the IKEA Complex and for Marilyn to find that her sideline passion had become a second full-time plus job. Marilyn gave notice to IKEA (on the same day that she received Employee of the Month award) and began the process of growing the company, after 6 years at the IKEA location she needed to find a bigger space. So she had to move the business to a new location in Kent.
Today StyroRecycle LLC has 3 trucks that pick up Styrofoam from businesses and encourages businesses and individuals to drop off clean Styrofoam and other recyclable materials (clean, flattened cardboard, clear bubble wrap and clear plastic wrapping) to the new location at 23418 68th Avenue South Kent WA 98032.
Not only is Marilyn passionate about recycling Styrofoam and other recyclables, but the business’ clients and area residents are just as passionate. Some families and individuals drive from as far away as Everett and Olympia to bring in their Styrofoam and locals have been seen to ride in on their bicycles with pieces of Styrofoam tethered to the back of their bikes. All are thankful that one woman wasn’t content to hear “No one can recycle Styrofoam.” But who instead pursued the line of questioning until the right answer was uncovered and then acted upon until a genuine solution was developed and implemented.
If you’re interested in bringing recyclable materials to StyroRecycle, please get more information at www.styrorecycle.com.