ECO Foam aims to help companies recycle their unwanted packaging foam

  • Written by Deborah Stone
EcoFoam sign
Courtesy photo
Plastic foam is ubiquitous in our society.

Unfortunately, most of it eventually makes its way to landfills, where it sits for hundreds of years. Left untouched, the foam, which is not biodegradable, kills animals that end up eating it, as well as dirties our landscape.

ECO Foam Recyclers wants to do its part to help the environment by educating people about the need to recycle this waste, allowing the product to be used once again.

The newly formed company works with businesses around the region to help better service their recycling needs with regards to expanded polystyrene (commonly known as Styrofoam), expanded polyethylene (flexible foam that often comes in sheets) and expanded polypropylene (often comes in the form of thin foam wrapped around large appliances.

The company, which is owned by Joe Baba and Kari McKibben, recently opened its doors in a 2,500- square-foot warehouse in Woodinville; a space that also occupies the couple’s other business venture, Bigfoot Tobacco and Supplies.

Declining sales for Bigfoot motivated the couple to look for a new endeavor.

“One of our employees at Bigfoot, Eric Ulfwengren, who is also an independent consultant, came to us with the foam recycling idea,” says Joshua Baba, marketing director for ECO Foam Recyclers. “The idea appealed to us because of the fact that it’s environmentally conscious and saves businesses money.”

Baba explains that as long as the foam is clean and dry, the company will take it without charge if it’s dropped off at its warehouse location; otherwise, it will be happy to pick up the product from its source, for a fee.

Once received, the company puts the foam through a densifying process of grinding and melting before it extrudes out of the machine in a molten state.

Then it is formed into a mold weighing 25 pounds per block and sold back into the plastic industry, which uses it in all kinds of different plastic components or even has it re-blown back into foam.

“Recycling this product instead of disposing of it in the environment makes perfect sense,” comments Baba. “The goal is to try and take all of it out of the waste stream and put it back to use. Letting our environment fill up with unwanted foam is both a misuse of our beautiful landscape and a waste of the land we have.”

The company, which is the only polyethylene recycler in the area (there are others that recycle polystyrene), is reaching out to as many small and midsize companies as possible to make them aware of its services.

Some, according to Baba, are very receptive, as they want to be green and realize they can save money.

Others, he notes, are not motivated to recycle.

“Our biggest challenge is trying to connect with large corporations like Boeing, Microsoft and Nintendo,” he says. “These companies use a lot of these products, but there’s so much red tape you have to get through to work with them.”

Baba is excited about the business, but realizes that it is a start-up and it will take time to build momentum.

He adds, “Each week, things gets better, and each client we find becomes a repeat customer, which is our objective.

“Right now, we’re working with companies in Woodinville, Redmond, Bothell, Lynwood, Seattle, Bellevue, Mukilteo and other surrounding areas, with the plan to expand further in the future.”

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