The Ottumwa Courier

Local News

July 29, 2013

Changes at Tenco frustrating but necessary, director says

(Continued)

Individuals can now only bring in at most 500 cans or bottles per day.

"That's the thing that's got people the most upset," he said. "People come from quite a ways away with a trunkload of cans ... and show up with 1,000 cans or many more that we cannot process."

Wright doesn't argue with the public's complaints, but he said his hands are tied and the changes had to be implemented in order for the center to stay open.

"If we were forced to take every can that came in, we would have to literally close," he said. "There's no way we could stay open. It's not a profitable venture for us. We do it for the people we serve with disabilities."

Before the temporary closure, the center was taking in around 100,000 cans per day — "and that was just killing us." On any given day, there are 20 to 30 Tenco clients working in the can redemption center.

Another huge problem is one small coin: a penny. Currently, people pay five cents per can or bottle at the store and when they redeem that can, they get their nickel back. When the distributor shows up at Tenco to pick up the cans, Tenco receives 6 cents per can, resulting in a one-cent profit.

That needs to increase to two cents per can, he said, so other can redemption centers could open and Tenco's long lines would disappear.

"We could at least keep our head above water," he said.

Can redemption centers have been open for 23 years and have not seen an increase per can in that time.

"We just can't operate that way, with competitive labor rates and everything else," he said. "We had to try to reduce the number of cans we take in to ensure we don't have the overhead costs for storage. It's a vicious circle, and it's really because the laws haven't changed in 23 years."

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