Thursday, July 02, 2015

One Woman's Quest To Make Garbage Beneficial

As published in The Citizen-Record on Tuesday, June 30, 2015 by Sara Jewell.

Maureen Woodlock stands by one of her bottle trees.

How often do we pull into the recycling depot on Route 6 west of Pugwash, drop off a bag or two of cans or bottles, thank the woman who hands over some money, then drive off without ever noticing the yellow lilies blooming in the gardens, the massive piles of blue wine bottles to the left of the drop-off deck, or perhaps even the blue eyes under the woman’s cap with “Keep Garbage Beneficial” embroidered on it? 
Maureen Woodlock has been the owner-operator of the KGB enviro-depot for 17 years and when I land in there one afternoon for a chat, she’s in the process of taking all the signs off the outside walls of her green-and-orange-painted trailers in preparation for a big move just a short distance away. She bought the former tavern near Pugwash River Road.“It’s not really a building here. It’s just a bunch of trailers tacked together,” Maureen says of her current location. “It’s nice here but now we’ll have a nice building that won’t leak and will have real facilities. As well, I’ll have a real asset with the business; right now, it’s not really worth anything.” 
With a small laugh, she admits she’s excited about the move. 
“I’m starting this when I’m 63, when I should be retiring, but if you look at most of my peers running small businesses, most of us are still kicking at our age,” she says then admits that financially, she really can’t retire yet. “I see other people retired and I think that would be a good life but that’s not the way it is so I’m still working. Then again, I kinda like it.”
At the new location, she’ll continue to accept electronics and paint, cans and bottles for recycling, and now she’s accepting textiles. 
“A lot of garbage, about 12 per cent, is used clothing,” she tells me. 
A proper building also allows Maureen to truly indulge her passion for bottle craft. Having handled “millions and millions and millions” of bottles over the past 17 years, Maureen was inspired to repurpose them. She has made wind chimes, wine glasses, vases and hanging candle holders. She even sold her wind chimes at the Pugwash Farmers’ Market, but what’s been holding her back is finding the right glue and the right chain for her works of art. 
A blue bottle wind chime hangs below her office.  
“I’ve had a lot of people want to buy the wind chime right out there,” she says, “but it’s my one and only. I’m going to hang up in the new building for decoration.” 
Because her craft trailer doesn’t have a view of the driveway, she’s not been able to work in it as often as she’d like. 
“At the new building, it’ll be a better setup. I’m hoping to be able to work bottle craft in the heated part and still keep an eye on what’s going on in the depot,” she says. “And I do want to work on the bottle craft. I believe there’s potential in that. The hanging candles are really nice.” 
But what I’m most curious about are the blue bottles hanging off the trees lining Route 6. 
“Those are called ‘bottle trees’,” Maureen says. “A woman came to the market and told me I could use all the blue wine bottles for bottle trees and I’d never heard of them.” 
According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac website, African slaves created bottle trees from dead trees or large limbs next to their quarters and decorated them with glass bottles found in garage piles. Blue bottles were coveted because they repelled evil and trapped night spirits to be destroyed by the rising sun.  
Maureen simply likes bottle trees as decoration. 
Of her blue bottles on the pruned poplars out front, she says, “I like the idea they are on living trees.”

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