IKEA and our Lumberton Day Program make quite a team!
The company warehouse in Westampton, NJ, is a huge storage facility of 1.3 million square feet servicing a number of Ikea stores in surrounding communities. A while back, Tony Angotti, the warehouse supervisor, and Mike Leschak, who oversees plant development and recycling projects, contacted our day program manager to see if we’d be interested in helping their recycling efforts and to help them reach their goal of becoming 100% landfill-free by 2020.
Well, we definitely were interested, and eventually a group of interested men and women from the day program trained to work in the plant several days a week with day program staff and IKEA supervision. After our work crew signs in each day, they don their orange safety vests — all workers must wear one on the warehouse floor — and head inside. It takes about 12 minutes to walk to the area where our crew works recycling bags, plastics, and other materials. It’s a good place for anyone with a FitBit to get in their 10,000 steps a day! Workers are dwarfed by the immensely high ceilings, and seemingly endless hallways, all of which have actual stop signs
at the intersections to remind workers there are oncoming forklifts and other small vehicles scurrying about and to be alert. Each hallway, too, is filled with massive numbers of stored crates and boxes filling every nook and cranny with IKEA merchandise piled seven, sometimes eight levels high. It’s enough to make a person feel pretty tiny when you look up toward the ceiling!
Our crew works at separating an assortment of un-recycled materials — huge thick plastic bags and strange looking support devices — from bins replenished several times a day from one or another of the many forklifts cruising around. The separated materials are then loaded onto empty tractor trailer trucks and ultimately sent to IKEA’s recycling facility to be transformed into new packing materials or innovative, heavy-duty all-cardboard storage pallets IKEA plans to use to replace their current wooden pallets. They’re still shooting for 2020 to become completely landfill free, and we’re betting they accomplish the goal even earlier.
Recently, warehouse supervisors have begun adding new components to the job and training our crew to add them to their skills. In the lunchroom area, they’ve even installed an Arc of Burlington County cabinet to accommodate our lunches. Walls painted with welcome notes greet visitors, and the occasional Swedish signs on the wall (with translations) add to the fun feel of the place. Even the signs on the bathrooms are designed for a laugh!
Our crew enjoy working at IKEA and put in a good day’s work. We think the management are happy with us as well, and with all the innovations they’re teaching our crew, sounds as if they plan on our staying around a long time. Good deal!
Thanks Tony, Mike and everyone from IKEA for this great experience and especially for being so supportive.