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December 15, 2009

Watertown Daily Times

Bottler battles increase in fees
PEPSI-COLA: Company plans Ogdensburg redemption center

OGDENSBURG — Because of higher handling fees, officials at Pepsi-Cola Bottlers are looking to get into the bottle redemption business.

At 6 p.m. today, the Ogdensburg Planning Board will consider plans to put a 3,600-square-foot bottle and can redemption center outside the 1001 Mansion Ave. plant.

"New York state upped the handling fee that we pay redemptions on, so obviously we're trying to minimize that cost by trying to bring them in ourselves," said Scott M. Wright, route supervisor and sales manager. "It's a shot at trying to stay in business. We're not doing our employees any favors if we're not looking at new ways to save money or to keep this going."

The redemption center would be housed on the plant property, but will be run as a separate company called Dasher Inc., Mr. Wright said.

"Dasher will operate no different than any other redemption center," Mr. Wright said. "Pepsi will still have to pick up the bottles. Obviously, the location is right there, so it's not physically going to pick them up, but Pepsi will still pay Dasher for those bottles."

Nothing would be sold at the center, and operation hours would be shorter than at other redemption centers around the city, Mr. Wright said.

The project is still in the early design stages, but Mr. Wright said he expects construction will cost about $100,000 and operation would require two additional employees. He said he hopes to have it up and running by spring.

Mr. Wright said Pepsi-Cola Bottlers has been hit by a drop in sales because of the economy and by increased operation fees because of the state's "Bigger, Better Bottle Bill" passed in April.

The bill expanded the types of redeemable bottles, and increased handling fees from 2 cents to 3.5 cents for distributors.

Mr. Wright did not estimate what the redemption center could save the Ogdensburg plant.

"It was one of our plans ... if they did pass through the 'Bigger, Better Bottle Bill,' we would have to get into the redemption business," he said. "We're in that situation where we've got to try to find ways to stay alive."

The plant employs nearly 50 people and distributes Pepsi products, including iced tea, water and iced coffee, throughout St. Lawrence County.


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