Bottle redemption center says mass closure would ripple throughout Capital Region

The estimated thousand centers that collect empty bottles and cans across New York state were on the brink of going out of business Tuesday, and local organizations said the loss of those centers could ripple throughout the Capital Region.

Stocking the free food pantry she keeps outside her bottle redemption center, Jade Eddy said she worried how she would soon put food on her own table.

“We’re at a breaking point,” she said. “The only reason the businesses are still open is because they’ve been pulling finances from every nook and cranny they can possibly think of. People are draining their retirement accounts, their pension accounts, their savings accounts.”

Eddy could be staring down the final days of MT Returnables, the can and bottle redemption business her father founded two decades ago.

Customers get a 5¢ deposit back for each can or bottle returned. However, the handling fee centers get paid – which is set by legislators – has been stuck at 3.5¢ since 2008.

“We are in crisis right now. New York state has left us behind as far as pay increase goes,” said Eddy, who is acting as something of a spokesperson for redemption center owners around the state. “I’m already operating at a loss. I’m moving my finances around to tread water at this point.”

Closing centers like this one could also impact local organizations that rely on turning in cans and bottles for cash.

Dan Underwood is scoutmaster for Boy Scout Troop 99 in South Glens Falls. The nearly $26,000 a year the troop makes by donating cans is the reason many programs – like summer trips – were free for boys without families having to pay.

“More of our finances and what we raise goes right back into the community and to the families and the boys.” said Underwood. “There’s so much more that revolves around this and so many other people that rely on the deposits.”

Unlike the center, stores will only take back what they sell. Eddy believes stores are not capable of taking on the volume that MT Returnables handles and would instead throw much of the returned cans and bottles into their dumpsters.

13 Investgates reached out to the governor’s office to ask whether the state is planning to intervene before there is a mass closure. Gov. Kathy Hochul’s office said in a statement, “Changing the bottle law will require new legislation, and Gov. Hochul will review all bills that pass both houses.”

Eddy estimates 30 centers have closed in the last year alone in New York state. She’s calling on the legislators or the governor to either increase the handling fee or offer emergency grants to keep centers open.  

“We need the governor to act now. We can’t wait until January – we’re not going to make it that far,” Eddy said.