CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Charlene Bloomer named her new business Second Chance Recycling and Renewal to symbolize not only giving her life a new purpose, but also the thousands of pounds of would-be trash she recycles daily.
Bloomer started seriously recycling cardboard, cans -- both aluminum and steel -- paper, plastics, glass and more at her home about six months ago.
The 47-year-old Ballard resident was sitting in a class at the Mercer County Technical Education Center in Princeton about three months before she earned her electrician degree when another classmate told Bloomer how he collected aluminum cans to pay for his gasoline.
"So I started collecting cans very quickly. That's when I noticed how much trash was in the ditches. And all the glass ... just so much glass everywhere," Bloomer said.
Unfortunately there isn't a market for recycling glass -- it only sells for about $10 per ton, she said.
But Bloomer thought of a way to recycle and renew the glass pieces. She has created new uses for the old beer bottles and colorful glass ashtrays.
She cut the tops off of beer bottles to turn them into regular drinking glasses. The glass ashtrays and candlestick holders make for a good base to elevate a vintage plate.
She said she hopes to fix an old kiln she owns so that she can melt glass and create new glass pieces.
Bloomer is now selling the renewed items she makes to pay for the recurring costs of actually recycling everything else.
The beer bottle drinking glasses cost $2.50 each and the plates with glass bases are $10.
Those prices seem petty when compared to the $165 a month it costs to rent the small baler in her backyard, which is where the picnic table used to sit. If she wants to get a bigger baler -- a "must," she said -- then she will have to fork up $15,000 for a new power line she would need to support it.
The money she spends in gas to travel to Princeton almost daily to pick up others' recyclables and the nine other places she visits a day adds up quickly, she said.
She is even saving one business owner $400 a month by picking up his recycling that would normally go in the garbage and he doesn't pay her anything for it, she said.
But money is not important to her.
Making a difference by recycling is, though.
"I'm not doing this for a profit. Recycling authorities don't want to have to recycle because it's hard work," Bloomer said. "I wasn't doing anything good with myself and I had to do something. I've always been a person who wanted to make a difference and I just saw another light at the end of the tunnel with recycling. I'm finally able to figure myself out."
Bloomer said she finds peace in waking up "before the sun" at 4:30 a.m., loading one of the Ford Ranger trucks up with 200-pound bales of cardboard and plastic and delivering them to the Greenbrier Recycle Center in Ronceverte, one of the few places that pays her for her work.