Redemption centers voice concern about getting paid for bottles and cans

Published: Jul. 24, 2023 at 4:27 PM EDT
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WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) - Local redemption centers say it has been a headache working with a company they say doesn’t communicate. On at least one occasion, they say payments have been late. Other times, they claim they’ve been shorted.

Makes Cents Redemption Center goes through about 500,000 bottles and cans.

“It’s going down through there and it’s reading the barcode of every container,” said co-owner Bill Huchzermeier.

It’s quite the operation, but Huchzermeier says it can’t get done without the cooperation of the company it works through, TOMRA.

“They pick them up from us after we separate them and bag them in the right bags. Then they pay us on behalf of either Pepsi, or Walmart, or whoever,” he said.

But Huchzermeier says a lack of communication and lack of payments are causing frustration.

He says a payment worth more than $40,000 was days late and a few dollars short. He says he got some of the deposit on Monday instead of Friday, but believes it’s not all of it.

“Out of that $42,000, we need to buy cans and bottles the next week and we need to make payroll. I wasn’t able to do either one of those without going to the bank and borrowing money on Friday,” said Huchzermeier.

It’s a similar story at Phinn A Bay Redemption. Operator Nickie Phinney says communication is virtually non-existent and they’ve been shorted on multiple payments.

“Every time we send a trailer, there’s a shortage on it somehow. Whether they’re telling us cans are mixed, then they’re paying us less for those cans, or they’re just completely shorting us for bags that are on there,” said Phinney.

According to its website, TOMRA has been hit by a cyberattack. But both Huchzermeier and Phinney claim these issues have been going on prior to that incident.

“We have an amazing team here but we also need our payments to come in correctly so we can keep everybody else paid,” said Phinney.

Below is a statement from TOMRA’s Director of Public Affairs, Mike Noel:

“To mitigate the impact of the cyberattack and protect our partner’s data we immediately started taking our data systems offline. As a result some of our digital tools are not available to us like our payment system to redemption centers. Thankfully our US team has been working around the clock and has been able to develop a ‘workaround’ solution so we can pay redemption centers. Since we don’t have access to exact container counts, we paid redemption centers based on how many containers they redeemed in the previous week. This is a temporary solution while we work to get our primary payment system back online.

Regarding the claims that payments have been withheld in the past, I would be happy to look into the claims at these two redemption centers further if of interest.  The NY Department of Environmental Conservation is currently pursuing regulatory reform of the Deposit Return System which will adjust how redemption centers and “deposit initiators” (typically a beverage distributor) and their container pickup and processing contractors (e.g. TOMRA) agree on container counts and address count discrepancies. We are hopeful that this dialogue with the state, the beverage industry and redemption centers will result in an approach that works for everyone.”