February 4, 2003 - Durham Herald Sun: Senegal RPCV Meredeth Marley started commercial recycling business

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Senegal RPCV Meredeth Marley started commercial recycling business

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Self-Help noted as a top lender to earth-friendly*

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Self-Help noted as a top lender to earth-friendly

For the new business owner life can seem like a battlefield: Let's face it, marriages have a better chance of making it out of the first year today than a small business (July 11, 1999)

The Carolina Hurricanes

By Paul Bonner : The Herald-Sun
Feb 4, 2003 : 8:43 pm ET

DURHAM -- With a rattle and roar that echoed through the warehouse, a machine flattened aluminum cans and with a whoosh blew them into a trailer.

To Meredith and Will Marley, in a small office inside the cavernous building, the sound is one of modest profits but also fulfilling an earth-friendly ethic.

Shimar Recycling has come a long way from the days when it was just "a guy, a girl and a truck," but it still requires considerable savvy and hard work, they say.

The business, which provides recycling collection to more than 400 businesses and schools in the Triangle, owes a debt to Durham-based Self-Help Credit Union, in more ways than one. Self-Helpís loan enabled Shimar to buy its building on Harvest Street off Cheek Road in eastern Durham.

Self-Help recently was recognized as one of 10 national leaders in financing small businesses and organizations providing environmentally friendly products and services in their communities. Another Durham organization, Sustainable Jobs Fund, also was among the 10 singled out by the Social Investment Forum.

Self-Help loaned about $10 million to 50 "green" businesses and organizations last year, about one-third of the credit unionís commercial loans, said Fred Broadwell, who directs Self-Helpís Sustainable Development Initiative.

Self-Help has provided more than $2 billion in loans, much of it in housing. The 22-year-old nonprofit organization has branches in Greensboro, Charlotte, Fayetteville, Greenville, Asheville and Wilmington and owns several former bank buildings and other structures in downtown Durham.

Broadwell defines sustainable development as that which "does not compromise the needs of future generations to serve our needs." Besides recycling, it includes organic farming, tourism and redeveloping existing buildings to new uses. It grew in the late 1980s out of Self-Helpís belief that environmental problems hit the credit unionís principal clientele -- low-income people and minorities -- hardest, he said.

Self-Help especially is interested in encouraging "agritourism," where farm visitors learn about crops and livestock through such activities as finding their way through mazes cut through cornfields and picking their own produce. Some farms have adopted themes such as a "pizza farm," where visitors can see pizza ingredients grown and processed and, of course, munch a slice or two of the finished product hot from the oven.

"There isnít one around here yet, but I suspect there will be," Broadwell said. "Itís a way to reconnect kids to where their food comes from."

Such loans offer rates and terms more favorable than most banks, along with more technical assistance to borrowers, Broadwell said.

Shimar borrowed $183,000 from Self-Help two years ago under a Small Business Administration program that required a 10 percent down payment and a 40 percent conventional loan match. The 30-year loan with a comparatively low interest rate enabled the company, which then had few other assets, to buy the building, allowing it to process recycled goods out of the weather. It previously stored and sorted its goods in the yard of another recycling business.

"We probably would not have been able to get a conventional loan," Meredith Marley noted.

Marley worked for the former SunShares recycling company in Durham as an environmental educator after returning from a Peace Corps stint in Senegal, a West African country where she was an agricultural extension agent. When SunShares went out of business, she joined another ex-employee in commercial recycling. Will Marley, a rock musician, joined the business later, and the couple bought out the other partner.

Now the couple, in their mid-30s, oversee what remains a modest operation, with four other employees. Even though the markets for recycled goods have been depressed in recent years, the business grew by 3 percent last year, they said.

"I think a lot of people get into recycling because they believe in recycling; they donít necessarily know how to run a business," Meredith Marley said.

But seeking the Self-Help loan forced Shimar to go to the "next level" by writing a business plan, she said. The Marleys next hope to increase their recycling of computers and fluorescent light bulbs.

Lending for sustainable development is bound to continue to grow, Broadwell said.

"Most companies are becoming greener every year, because itís in their self-interest," he said.

Investors can get involved as well, by participating in Self-Helpís Environmental Certificate of Deposit. The fund now stands at about $750,000.

"We encourage local people, if they believe in and like what weíre doing, to come and be a part of it," Broadwell said.
More about Shimar Recycling

Read more about Shimar Recycling at:

Shimar Recylcing

Shimar Recycling: Keeping the Triangle Green
Meredith Marley and Larry Shively Meredith Marley and Larry Shively make sure items that can be recycled do not go to waste.

You may not yet know Shimar Recycling by name, but you might have seen the little green recycling machine making its way down the busy roads of Durham, Chapel Hill or Cary. The rolling billboard has served as a good advertising tool for this small commercial recycling business.

The business started in September 1997, after SunShares Recycling shed its commercial recycling. Larry Shively, who had run much of the SunShares operations and had a good rapport with clients, saw an opportunity.

Meredith Marley, former community educator with SunShares and a recent Peace Corps volunteer, saw the same opportunity. Together, with their basic knowledge of recycling, they formed Shimar Recycling.

"It's been a lot of tough work over the last year and half," says Shively. "It's been just the two of us taking care of everything, but we have finally gotten to the point of hiring our first employee. To most, that might not be a big accomplishment, but to us we are very proud of how we have grown."

"Our mission is simple," says Marley. "We want to provide a high quality, affordable and reliable recycling service for all size businesses. In essence we want to be the extra employee in charge of recycling for each company."

Proof of their commitment is the fact that Shimar has neither lost a customer to poor service, nor really had any complaints.

"Customer service is number one with us," Marley says. "We're not going to provide a service that I can not back up."

Shimar provides recycling services for most types of paper, plastic bottles, glass bottles, aluminum and steel cans for any size business, restaurant or institution. All services are custom designed to fit the customers needs. There are no minimum quantities for collection, and containers are provided upon request.

For more information, call Meredith Marley at 489-4416.

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