Edward J. Gossett Jr. is on a mission to make us all more environmentally correct. He's selling T-shirts made partly from recycled plastic, unbleached paper towels and cleaning liquids that won't pollute.
Operation Green Co. in Westminster is stocked and ready to supply the region's demand for products made from recycled materials.
"I'm now being referred to as 'Hey, you're the recycling guy,' " said Mr. Gossett, 24, who opened the business a month ago in a former plumbing company office on Pennsylvania Avenue near Vince's Seafood.
He said he considered naming his business "It Used to be Your Trash."
From his small rented office, he distributes products made by seven companies to business and individual customers. He also is a "recycling consultant," offering advice to companies for $15 an hour -- $8 an hour if they purchase his products.
There is no overabundance of products made from recycled materials or distributors of those products, said Evelyn Haught, public relations director for the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries Inc. in Washington.
"It's still hard to go in a store and find recycled products easily. It's growing, though," she said.
Mr. Gossett said he is trying to keep his prices low to compete with products made from unrecycled materials, which generally are cheaper.
"The more people recycle, the lower the price is going to be," he said. "The enthusiasm for [recycled products] has slowed up a little bit, but that's part of my job to get the ball rolling again."
Plain T-shirts, made from ground-up plastic bottles blended with polyester, cost $6; shirts with designs are $20. Paper towels, sold in a case of 30 rolls, cost 86 cents per roll. Toilet paper, sold in a case of 96 rolls, costs 51 cents per roll.
Mr. Gossett hasn't always been an avid recycler. He said he became interested in the issue about two years ago when he and his mother could not find the types of recycling bins they wanted. He saw statistics about the volume of waste generated in the United States and began thinking about products made from recycled materials.
He also was looking for a new way to earn a living. In 1991, his hands were crushed in a work accident that forced him out of the electrical work he had been trained to do. He had worked in sales at one time and enjoyed it, so he decided to start a business.
Mr. Gossett was raised in Towson and graduated from the former Eastern Vocational-Technical High School in Essex in 1989. He took a course at Essex Community College about setting up a business, but said he has gained most of his knowledge about business and recycling through reading.
He has set high goals for himself. He considers his distribution area to include the Baltimore region, north to Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. He said he hopes to open a retail outlet this summer in a storefront a few doors from his office.
If all goes well, Mr. Gossett said, he wants to distribute recycled products nationally and set up a nationwide chain of Operation Green stores, starting on the East Coast.
He said he would like to be the Stephen A. Geppi of recycled products. Mr. Geppi, founder and president of Diamond Comic Distributors in Timonium, built a fortune in the comic book business. Mr. Gossett's fiancee, Sheena Hall, works in Mr. Geppi's marketing department.
Mr. Gossett said he wouldn't mind being hired as a consultant for Diamond Comics, which has distribution centers around the country. He said he might be able to find ways to save Mr. Geppi money.
For now, Mr. Gossett is working 18-hour days and living an environmentally correct life; he walks to work and uses both sides of the paper at his office.