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January 23, 2008

Rochester Democrat and Chronicle

Perinton recycling center proving popular
Claudia Vargas

(January 23, 2008) — After walking into the EZ Bottle and Can Return redemption center on Fairport Road in Perinton with four full bags of empty beer cans and bottles, a young man walked out with almost $40 in cash — a pretty decent head start on the next party.

For youth sports teams, a day of collecting cans and bottles can result in as much as $3,000, said Sheila Rivers of Walworth, owner of EZ Bottle and Can Return, adding that bottle drives have become very popular since she opened the redemption center in June 2006.

Business increased 106 percent comparing the first six months of operation with the same time period a year later, she said. "At first, we were just sitting here waiting for people to come in."

A redemption center pays for cans and bottles that have the 5-cent recyclable stamp on them. While people can take back bottles and cans to most grocery stores, Rivers said EZ Bottle and Can Return is the only independent redemption center in Monroe County that accepts brands of bottles and cans that some grocery stores don't take back.

"You don't have to do the machines... and we have no (quantity) limits," Rivers said about the machines at grocery stores.

Since she started the business, Rivers said her center has processed about 3.5 million cans and bottles. She hopes that by the end of June, five million cans will have been processed.

For each container, the center receives a 2 cent handling fee, in addition to the 5 cents, from beer and soda distributors, many of whom in this area contract with Tomra NY Recycling, LLC in Farmington, Ontario County, to process the containers.

EZ Bottle and Can Return makes a 2-cent profit after paying consumers 5 cents for each container.

The Perinton firm also offers pickup service for commercial businesses, and charges 1 cent per bottle, Rivers said, adding that about 15 area businesses use the pickup service.

Although recycling is popular here, Rivers said business would increase substantially if water and iced tea bottles were redeemable.

"One of the Boy Scout troops did the LGPA tour and brought back six bags full of water bottles for every bag" of redeemable containers, she said.

Frank Procopio, who owns one of the many redemption centers in Syracuse, has been in the business for more than 20 years. He says that for years people have been lobbying for a new state bottle bill that would make water, juice and iced tea bottles part of the 5-cent refund deal, but the bill keeps getting blocked.

Procopio says redemption centers are very popular in Syracuse, with about 20 or 25 centers in a 10-mile radius. He said that business grew for many years but leveled out about five years ago. Procopio's Center City Bottle Redemption Center on Chapel Drive in Camillus, a Syracuse suburb, processes between 7 million and 8 million bottle and cans each year, he said.

Hal Cole owner of Avon Redemption Center, in Livingston County, says he is surprised Rochester doesn't have alternatives to the grocery store machines.

"There is a lack of redemption centers, but the amount of money we're getting might not be worth it," Cole said, adding that the 2 cent handling fee has stayed the same for 10 years.

Rivers said she hopes New York adopts a law to increase the handling fee from 2 cents to 3.5 cents per container.



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