As an entrepreneur, John Paul MacDuffie Woodburn - just call him Woody - is remarkably calm these economically anxious days.

He has reason to be.

The 26-year-old West Philadelphia resident is presiding over a business that has been steadily adding customers, revenue, and even workers.

Woodburn's roughest patch this recession was a traffic incident in December, when a trailer he had attached to the back of his bicycle to haul recyclables - the core of his worker-run cooperative - got hitched to the wheel well of a passing SUV.

Even that wasn't so bad. Woodburn got a break from pedaling for about a block - the distance he was slowly pulled along Chestnut Street before the driver responded to his pleas and those of horrified motorists, and stopped.

Nobody was hurt; nothing was damaged.

Thus has been the seemingly no-fret existence - there is certainly sweat with all that pedaling - of Pedal Co-Op.

It was born, in spring 2007, as so many ventures are - during a period of boredom over a couple of beers.

Woodburn and then-roommate Peter Malandra had noted that the bar where they were tossing a few back had no recycling receptacles, despite its brisk trade in canned and bottled beverages - and despite a city requirement that businesses and residents recycle. While residents qualify for city recycling services, businesses have to provide their own.

"We thought, 'We could make some money,' " Woodburn recalled of that moment of inspiration.

Malandra wanted to do recycling collection by truck, a proposal swiftly nixed by Woodburn.

"I don't have a license, and I'll never get a license," he said. "I bike everywhere."

All told, he pedals 200 miles a week.

The trailer idea he borrowed from a bicycle-based recycling group his mother was using in Northampton, Mass. - Pedal People.

For supplies to build the co-op's first trailer, Woodburn went scavenging for used metal at research laboratories on the University of Pennsylvania campus. He had graduated from the school that spring with a master's degree in engineering.

Woodburn's long-range plans are to attend medical school to become either a surgeon or an anesthesiologist. But first he wants to get Pedal Co-Op - currently a registered nonprofit in Pennsylvania, but not on the federal level - on solid footing. Woodburn said it was almost there.

The seven-days-a-week operation now serves 45 recycling customers and 83 composting clients. (Pedal Co-Op bikers also deliver bread for a bakery and magazines for a new green-oriented publication, Grid. They also are movers - for those brave enough to have their belongings cycled through the city's streets.)

Revenue - recycling costs 21 cents per gallon container, plus a $1 pickup fee; composting materials is $2.50 per three-gallon bag - is running close to $4,000 a month. It has been increasing $100 a month since last May, Woodburn said.

Recyclables get biked to Blue Mountain Recycling Center in Grays Ferry, the composting additives to a community garden in University City.

Overhead is minimal: five mountain bikes, four trailers and "seven to eight employees," Woodburn said.

"Sometimes, some of the members burn out," he said to explain the wiggle room on the staffing number.

Burnout comes with the territory when you're pedaling in all types of weather, hauling loads weighing up to 600 pounds.

"It's like being on one of those treadmills on the hardest mode," said Woodburn, whose leanness (he's 5-foot-11 and 140 pounds) attests to the rigors of his work. "There are easier jobs to get paid 12 bucks an hour."

But few are as rewarding in an environmentally conscious sense, he said.

"We usually get a lot of high-fives, thumbs-up," Woodburn said. "Kids think it's really cool."

So do Pedal Co-Op's customers, which include bars, food stores, offices, and coffee shops.

Metropolitan Bakery became the group's first compost customer in January 2008. The bakery's recycling is now biked away, too - three times a week.

"All I have to do is put it in a bucket," said Patricia Musarra, the bakery's kitchen manager, who had tried for a while to handle the store's composting materials on her own. "I just didn't have the time."

At the 11th-floor Walnut Street offices of Citizens for Pennsylvania's Future, a nonprofit environmental-advocacy group, outreach director Christine Knapp said Pedal Co-Op was an answer to her guilty conscience. Her building does not offer recycling services. So she signed up to have her office's recyclables biked away every other week.

"For $20 a month, to feel like I'm doing the right thing," Knapp said, "it's worth it."

That is not to say that the world of the Pedal Co-Op hauler is all praise and warm fuzzies. Their workplace, after all, is the streets of Philadelphia.

"Once in a while," Woodburn said, "a jerk drives by and says, 'Why don't you get a real job?' "

He has that, too. He delivers hoagies most days from 4 p.m. to midnight - by bicycle, of course.

Contact staff writer Diane Mastrull at 215-854-2466 or dmastrull@phillynews.com.