Alcoa Recycling

Dr. Clark was a big help. He gave me a recommendation for a job opportunity with a “mom-n-pop” recycling organization. I visited one of the two employees that worked for this company. It was located at the White Horse Road Fairgrounds. He was an out-going senior who was going back to Louisiana after graduation. (Not “out-going” in that he was full of joy. He told me that Jesus never smiled and we shouldn’t either. He was a lot of fun!!) He said I could have the job if I wanted it, but I needed to come down in May rather than some time later. He was leaving and they needed somebody. He said he worked there for four years and never did any of his homework outside of the workplace. He said he could have two or three customers in an eight hour day. It seemed like a remarkable opportunity. I took the job and planned to move down in May.

Penny could not quit her job until later in the summer. We worked at the same place, TransAmerica Delaval. She quit in June/July and then moved down with the kids. I lived in a small apartment during that time. We found a house a few miles away, but it was not going to be ready until later in the summer. I felt some pressure about getting the house but thought since our life was changing so much it might help the situation. I don’t know if the pressure was self-derived or externally derived. The house was more than what we needed and could really afford. It seemed like the right thing to do and I hoped we could swing it. We moved in during the late summer. Both of us were making $20.00 per hour in 1986 combined. After we quit our jobs and moved to Greenville I was the only one working making $5.00 per hour.

Work went great! I had virtually no customers that first summer. Not only that, but the owners sold the business to Alcoa Recycling within the first week or two that I was hired. I got immediate benefits and a raise. Alcoa bought the company because during the 80’s they were trying to raise the recyclability of the aluminum can. This small plant was a marketing tool. The recycling rate was under 50% in those days and only a minority of people was on-board with recycling in our country. By 1993, when they closed the plant, the recycling rate was over 70%. We had worked ourselves out of a job so to speak. It was a fun job. I worked there through college and on into 1993 when they shut the plant down due to down-sizing.

I began waiting on the public when they brought in a bag of aluminum cans to sell. It took about 24 cans to make a pound and the rate was anywhere from .25 to .65 cents per pound. It varied in price for many reasons. Alcoa began to promote more and I became busier, but never so busy to where I couldn’t do my homework onsite and they were okay with that. In addition, we owned Golden Goats and Can Banks in 11 (I think) locations from Cheraw, Woodruff, Gaffeney, Pelzer, Fountain Inn and more. People would bring their cans and put them in the machine. It would weigh them and “spit” out the appropriate change. Two or three times per week the big wagon would come with several thousand pounds of cans which we unloaded by shovel, crushed and blew on a tractor trailer to be shipped to Maryville, TN.

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