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November 29, 2006

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It is easy being green

SCARBOROUGH (Nov 29): Imagine four blue whales swimming side by side, 36 full-grown African elephants marching down the street or even 216 average, four-door cars parked in a lot. 0]

All of these equal about 270 tons – the amount of recycled bottles Clynk has processed in Scarborough since March.

Though Clynk's grand opening was Nov. 18, customers at Hannaford’s flagship store in Scarborough have been testing its methods for about eight months. Clynk's method is about simplicity – making bottle recycling easier for customers, bottle companies and grocery stores. Bottle deposits are kept automatically in an account, accessible with a card and pin number.

Erica Thoits
Wendy Jo McKay feeds bottles into the count and crush machine at Clynk's warehouse in Scarborough while keeping an eye on the customer's account. Before the bottles are loaded into the machine, the customer's bag barcode is scanned to automatically credit the account with the bottle deposts. (Photo by Erica Thoits)

“Everyone benefits,” said Frank Whittier, president of Clynk. “We knew the redemption centers needed help, and that a lot of grocery stores needed help. We created, with Hannaford’s help, a better system. It’s simple. For the customer, it’s really drop and go.”

Right next to Hannaford, near the new drive through prescription pick up, is the Clynk drop off center complete with solar panels and energy efficient siding. Here, new customers choose a four-digit pin, answer two security questions, receive a roll of free bags – which cost $2 for 10 bags later on – and 10 ID bar codes linked to their pins.

The initial sign up is possibly the most time anyone would ever need to spend inside the redemption center. The bags are filled and labeled at home and then dropped off back at Clynk. The bags are quickly scanned and sent to Clynk’s warehouse on Pleasant Hill Road.

Erica Thoits
The small Clynk building next to Hannaford in Scarborough is environmentally friendly by using solar panels and energy efficient siding and glass. (Photo by Erica Thoits)

At the warehouse they are scanned again and fed through the count and crush machine that keeps track of the different types of bottles, sorting plastic from glass and even different colors of glass and types of plastic. The customer’s account is automatically credited with the bottle deposits. To access their money, customers enter their pins into a kiosk inside Hannaford or at the nearby Clynk. The receipts are redeemable at any Hannaford, though the kiosks are located only in Scarborough.

Clynk acts as a redemption center, making 3.5 cents on every can or bottle. The Maine bottle law, along with the 5 and 15 cent bottle deposits, requires companies to pick up their empties from grocery stores and redemption centers, said Whittier. Clynk steps in, picking up, sorting and crushing the returns. The bottle companies are then billed for the service. Clynk also sells materials to companies that can use crushed glass for new products, such as faux marble counter tops or plastics for anything from kayaks to fleece.

Erica Thoits
Jessica Houser-Parish, the retail services manager, uses one of the kiosks in the Clynk center next to Hannaford in Scarborough. Customers can use the kiosks to check their balances and get receipts to redeem their deposits. (Photo by Erica Thoits)

“We’re always looking for companies who are turning this stuff into new and creative things,” said Whittier.

Besides making the bottle sorting easier and more accurate than counting by hand, the count and crush machine increases the value of plastics and crushed glass by sorting different varieties of each.

Green, clear and brown glasses are all different, said Whittier. Putting just one piece of green into a barrel of clear devalues the glass.

Whittier plans to make an impact on the country's recycling by taking Clynk to other New England states and to New York, but first Clynk will expand in Maine. In January Clynk will open a center at the Windham Hannaford and another at Sanford's Hannaford in early February.

To download an application form or find out more about Clynk, visit its Web site at www.clynk.com.

For the complete story about Clynk, see the Nov. 30 issue of the Current.

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