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Ballard artist turns trash into treasure

By Megan Workman
Kenny Kemp
Charlene Bloomer "saw another light at the end of the tunnel with recycling" three months before she graduated with an electrician degree. She started her new business, Second Chance Recycling and Renewal, at her home where she bales 30,000 pounds of cardboard a month.
Kenny Kemp
Every morning, Charlene Bloomer loads up one of the Ford Ranger trucks with 10,000 pounds of baled recyclables and then travels to the Greenbrier Recycle Center in Ronceverte to start her day. She then collects recyclable items from different businesses and some friends' homes before she travels back home to separate and smash.
Kenny Kemp
Recycling glass at a recycling center is a hassle since most of them don't do it, Charlene Bloomer said. Once it gets dark outside, Bloomer goes inside her home to "renew" old items, such as making beer bottles into drinking glasses.
Kenny Kemp
Charlene Bloomer said she needs a bigger baler so that she can keep up with the amount of cardboard she collects to recycle. Before she can buy a larger baler, she would have to install a new power line that costs $15,000.
Kenny Kemp
Charlene Bloomer made this Christmas tree ornament out of recycled copper, wire and beads.
Kenny Kemp
Charlene Bloomer said she likes to recycle items that didn't have much of a "life" before. She painted a piece of wood -- that would have been thrown away because of its measurements -- to resemble a quilt.
Kenny Kemp
One purpose of Charlene Bloomer's business, Second Chance Recycling and Renewal, is to make something new out of something old. Here, she made cubed blocks out of an old piece of wood that she painted.
Kenny Kemp
Charlene Bloomer said having her business at her home "is best because this is more of a quest for me personally." The home she built with her significant other now has a yard full of piled cardboard, plastic, paper and more.
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.
She then stops by the White Sulphur Springs area to pick up other people's recyclables. Bloomer collects recycling from about 75 businesses and just a few friends' homes.Her business has bloomed by word of mouth, she said.Bloomer's goal is to offer recycling services to residents sooner rather than later.If she owned a bigger baler, she could recycle more than the 30,000 pounds of cardboard she currently saves from the landfill each month.
She also wants to make Second Chance Recycling and Renewal a "family-oriented" business.Her sons, Charlie, 19, and William Gillepsie, 22, and stepson Christopher Pence, 19, as well as her longtime significant other, help handle the business daily. Her mother and father visit her home to give her a hand sometimes, too.They help her put piles and piles of cardboard in the baler.They place used car oil bottles on the "PVC pipe tree" Bloomer made that drains the oil into a bucket at the bottom of the "tree."They collect, separate and put everything that is already divided into large piles in her yard into bags."It's too much for me to do alone," Bloomer said. "We don't think of it as work. Besides making a difference, it keeps us busy."While her family has supported her recycling efforts, she wants other families to consider recycling as well."I want families to see by working together they can stay together. We need to take responsibility," Bloomer said. "I want people to stop and think about what's going on with all of this recycling and try to make a difference. Teach your children to think of others."In the near future, Bloomer said she wants children to visit Second Chance Recycling and Renewal as a place to learn about recycling in an educational manner.She wants to start composting and to build a worm farm so that children can "learn recycling with agriculture," she said."I'm not done yet. There are grants I can apply for. I'm doing pigs next," Bloomer said. "My goal is to be able to take care of those that want to recycle more."To find out more about Second Chance Recycling and Renewal and to see some of Bloomer's work visit her company's Facebook page,;;fref=ts or call her at 540-505-2163.Reach Megan Workman at or 304-348-5113.
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