Volunteers break down and collect styrofoam during a recycling event at 1049 State Ave in Marysville, Washington on Saturday, Jan. 6, 2024. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

Volunteers break down and collect styrofoam during a recycling event at 1049 State Ave in Marysville, Washington on Saturday, Jan. 6, 2024. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

Volunteers trim trees, holiday trash at recycling event in Marysville

Locals dropped off styrofoam and Christmas trees on Saturday. The event helped repurpose items not allowed in recycling bins.

MARYSVILLE — Over a week after Christmas, traces of the holidays still lingered Saturday morning in an open parking lot off State Avenue in Marysville.

A line of volunteers stood by as a steady flow of people drove up with Douglas fir trees strapped to their roofs and cardboard piled in their trunks.

Locals started the free annual post-holiday recycling event about four years ago as a way to collect mostly styrofoam and cardboard, said Glenn Smith, a member of Marysville Sunrise Rotary. Now, volunteers also accept Christmas trees, flat-screen TVs and clear plastic wrapping to decrease the trash accumulated at the end of December.

Trees were chopped into wood chips that city staff will distribute to local parks. TVs, computers, monitors and other electronics were given to the e-waste recycling service 3R Technology. And plastic bags, bubblewrap and other film contributed to the “Bags to Benches” program, allowing facilities to turn plastic into decking material.

Smith worked as a contractor for decades where he “saw all the things that get dumped,” especially styrofoam, he said.

Many curbside waste collection services don’t accept styrofoam for recycling because it isn’t valuable.

The material consists mostly of air and a small amount of plastic. Machinery has to melt the styrofoam to get rid of the air before it can be sold to manufacturers. The process often becomes more expensive than the material is worth.

But Smith knew of one facility in Kent — Styro Recycle — that does accept styrofoam. He partnered with Everett Community College’s Students for Environmental Action and the Marysville United Methodist Church to create the first post-holiday recycling event.

He and volunteers filled 11 pickup truck beds with styrofoam during the first year of the event, Smith said.

The city of Marysville and local Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts troops have also joined as partners, helping grow the number of volunteers and items they could take.

String lights were one holiday item not accepted at the event.

Representatives of solid waste facilities are the first to say that string lights plague the recycling process every holiday season.

The wires wrap around the sorting equipment, and that creates safety and efficiency issues for workers, Waste Management spokesperson Patrick McCarthy said.

While never allowed at Republic or WM, people can recycle their string lights for free through Snohomish County Public Works this year. Residents have until the end of this month to drop off string lights at any of the Public Works transfer stations in Everett, Arlington or Mountlake Terrace.

For recycling wrapping paper, “basic is best,” WM public education and outreach manager Karissa Miller said.

Foil or wax based wrapping paper isn’t accepted by Waste Management. People can crumple the paper to check whether it is a recyclable material, McCarthy said. If the material remains crumbled, it can be recycled. If the paper ball expands or opens, it can’t be recycled.

People can also reuse bows, ribbons and tissue paper from year to year, advised Wendy Weiker, sustainability and community outreach manager for Republic.

She said people can put presents in cardboard boxes or a cloth bag that someone can use after opening their gift.

Ultimately, Weiker recommends, “avoid wrapping in the first place.”

What questions do you have about recycling? Email Ta’Leah Van Sistine at the address below.

Ta’Leah Van Sistine: 425-339-3460; taleah.vansistine@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @TaLeahRoseV.

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