OTTUMWA — We cannot allow the temporary closure of Tenco's can redemption center to become a permanent disappointment, said the agency director.
"If we don't get some help from the state in regulations or rule changes, allowing us to earn two cents a can [instead of one cent], I cannot see Tenco being able to keep the redemption center open in the long term," said Ben Wright, Tenco's executive director.
Right now, the redemption center has stopped accepting cans so they could both install some new equipment donated by John Deere Ottumwa Works and catch up on the mountain of cans piling up at Tenco.
Tenco, operated as a safe working environment for individuals with disabilities, has been taking in more than double the cans and bottles they took in two years ago. Because they can "only" process 50,000 containers per day, they have built up a pile of more than a million cans.
The numbers have doubled because when it comes to bulk recycling for cash, Tenco is one of the only places in the entire southeast Iowa region. Wright said that's because with a payment of one-cent per can, other redemption centers couldn't pay their employees or their rent, never mind make a profit. For a while, the nonprofit Tenco Industries was able to survive, but even without needing to make a profit, they are not breaking even. One penny is how much centers were making 23 years ago.
"I don't know any business that can go 23 years without an increase in prices," said Wright. "We maintain a container outside our building for donations. Without the donations of cans from people who don't request the deposit money, we'd be closed."
In other words, he said, it costs more to run the business than the operation brings in.